7:15 AM | *America’s Deadliest Natural Disaster…the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 and the heroic efforts of meteorologist Isaac Cline* — Arcfield Weather2 min read
Dredged sand was used to raise the city of Galveston by as much as 17 feet above its previous elevation. A 17-foot seawall was built beginning in 1902 and initially spanned nearly 50 blocks providing protection for heart of the city. In 1915, a storm similar in strength and track to the 1900 hurricane struck Galveston. This storm brought a 12-foot storm surge which tested the new seawall. Although nearly 50 people died on Galveston Island during the storm in 1915 with the majority in unprotected portions, this was a great reduction from the thousands who died in 1900 during the worst natural disaster America has ever faced. Additional sections have been added to the seawall over the years and it now spans more than 10 miles; however, some two-thirds of the island remains in harm’s way.
The post-hurricane life of Isaac Cline
In August of 1901, Cline and his children moved to New Orleans, where he would assume the duties of forecaster-in-charge of the recently created Gulf District. His forecasting responsibility was extended beyond Texas and Oklahoma, to include the states of Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and northwestern Florida. Now situated in coastal Louisiana, along the banks of the Mississippi River, he was in a prime location to further his research into tropical cyclones and to demonstrate the efficacy of his flood-forecasting capabilities.
Between 1900 and 1924, Cline meticulously charted meteorological data observed during 16 cyclones affecting the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. He was personally involved with 10 of those storms and his work dramatically advanced tropical cyclone forecasting methodology. Prior to his work, cyclone studies were based primarily on broad synoptic charts with little support from observation data. In contrast, Cline’s method determined the storm’s probable path by observing minimum air pressure and wind shifts recorded at stations ahead of and to the sides of the cyclone. He then plotted the track on a map indicating hourly positions, wind and cloud directions, wind speeds, and precipitation.
Cline published his research on tropical storms in a book called Tropical Cyclones in 1926. In a review published four years later in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, it was said that: “This book constitutes a notable advance in the collection and representation of precise data with regard to tropical cyclones of the North Atlantic Ocean, observed at coastal and inland stations of the American continent.” Widely recognized as a landmark achievement in weather research, his book soon became a “must read” text for aspiring meteorologists throughout the world.
Meteorologist Paul Dorian
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