Brendan’s Alternate Tagline: The perfect storm was a drizzle compared to this.
Quick synopsis: The story of the Great Lakes (Snow) Hurricane of 1913.
Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like: This storm was so destructive that 12 ships sank and over 248 people lost their lives. And you’ve probably never heard of it.
Fun Fact for History Nerds: This fun fact is for the weather history nerds specifically. This story is a perfect mix of splendid incompetence and political cowardice. Weathermen were afraid to put up a signal for hurricane. It was bad for business! Better to just let a bunch of people die, apparently.
Also, the best way to survive a Great Lakes storm? Stay away from the shore.
Book vs. Book: The good news is that these are both great books! The sad news is that this is a pretty devastating story.
The storm you never heard of encompasses all the Great Lakes (except Ontario from a ship perspective) and needs to take into account dozens of ships which for some ungodly reason went out into one of the worst storms ever in the Great Lakes. Both authors actually take you through those ungodly reasons and of course it comes back to money. The ship captains wanted to get their last runs in so they would have good reputations going into next season. Owners wanted more shipments moved. And the weather service didn’t want to get in the way.
The difference between the books is mainly in the narrative flow. Brown jumps constantly between ships and shore while moving along chronologically. Schumacher is a bit more linear and has a little less detail. Neither is better than the other, and Brown’s is not nearly as discombobulating as I thought it would be. In fact, his narrative just ratchets up the tension.
Verdict: White Hurricane is my pick, but just barely. Both of these books are great and really do this story justice.
If You Liked This Try:
- David Laskin, The Children’s Blizzard
- Ed O’Donnell, Ship Ablaze
- R.A. Scotti, Sudden Sea
- Gary Krist, The White Cascade
- Michael Schumacher, Wreck of the Carl D.