As Hurricane Isaac is set to wreak havoc all along the Gulf Coast, storm watchers are relying on meteorologist Dr. Rick Knabb, the Weather Channel’s hurricane expert, to track it for them. Here’s Dr. Knabb’s essential reading list on some of the worst storms in history, including the Galveston hurricane of 1900, the deadliest natural disaster ever to hit the United States.
“Hurricane Watch,” by Bob Sheets and Jack Williams
Not just the story of Hurricane Andrew that devastated southern Florida in August 1992, this book is a history of hurricanes and the people that forecast them. Coming directly from Dr. Bob Sheets, former director of the National Hurricane Center — and one of the few people ever to be in charge of the nation’s hurricane warnings — this is the inside scoop that all will find enlightening. It is both compelling and eerie to read about hurricanes from this book’s pre-Katrina perspective.
“Isaac’s Storm,” by Erik Larson
If you enjoy either history or weather, or both, this story of the deadliest hurricane in our country’s history — Galveston 1900 — will renew your appreciation for modern-day weather forecasting and communications, even with their limitations.
“The Great Deluge,” by Douglas Brinkley
The stories of human suffering during and after Hurricane Katrina are unpleasant to hear but need to be told. Brinkley, a historian and professor, was a resident of New Orleans at the time — giving this book tremendous credibility. While there is an unavoidable focus on the death and destruction in New Orleans, the book encompasses Katrina’s effects elsewhere along the Gulf Coast, and there are many inspirational stories along the way.
“After Ike,” by Bryan Carlile
If a picture is worth a thousand words, this book’s many aerial photos of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Ike in 2008 are worth a mint. The before vs. after images of some locales are particularly sobering, a reminder of the power of water — and that a storm surge from the ocean is often far more destructive than the wind itself. Most photos were taken in the days following landfall and are accompanied by descriptive captions by the author/photographer to capture the full effects of the hurricane.
“Category Five,” by Thomas Neil Knowles
An excellent combination of American history and meteorology, this book tells the story of one of only three hurricanes on record to make landfall in the United States at Category 5 intensity. The story takes place before storms started having names, and it is a grim reminder of what can happen if people do not or cannot evacuate in time from an approaching hurricane.