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Isaac Monroe Cline (October 13, 1861 – August 3, 1955) was the chief meteorologist at the Galveston, Texas office of the U.S. Weather Bureau from 1889 to 1901. In that role, he became a central figure in the devastating Galveston hurricane of 1900.
Cline was born near Madisonville, Tennessee on October 13, 1861, to Jacob and Mary Cline. He had a younger brother, Joseph Leander Cline. Cline attended Hiwassee College, then in 1882, joined the meteorology training program of the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Isaac was first assigned to Little Rock, Arkansas, where he earned a Doctor of Medicine from the University of Arkansas in his spare time. He was then assigned to Fort Concho, then to Abilene, Texas where he met Cora May Bellew, whom he married March 17, 1887.
In March 1889, a Texas section of the Weather Bureau was being established, and Cline was sent to Galveston to organize and oversee it. Cline stayed with the office when it became part of the U.S. Weather Bureau in the 1891 transfer from the Signal Corps to the Department of Agriculture. In 1892, Isaac's younger brother, Joseph Cline, also began work as a meteorologist at the Galveston Weather Bureau.
During his time in Galveston, aside from running the weather office, Cline also taught Sunday school at his church, was a professor at the local medical college and, in 1896, earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree from AddRan Male & Female College, now Texas Christian University.
Hurricane of 1900
Cline was the second meteorologist to provide reliable forecasts of freezing weather. He also provided some of the first available flood warnings on the Colorado and Brazos rivers. However, in 1891, he wrote an article in the Galveston Daily News in which he gave his official meteorological opinion that the thought of a hurricane ever doing any serious harm to Galveston was "a crazy idea". Many residents had called for a seawall to protect the city, but Cline's statement helped to prevent its construction.
He was proven tragically wrong on September 8, 1900, when the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 hit the island. Between 6,000 and 12,000 people were killed in what remains the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history. Cline's wife, Cora, who was pregnant with their fourth child at the time, was one of those who perished in the storm. Cline was nearly drowned, but he managed to survive, as well as to save his youngest daughter, six-year-old Esther Bellew. Cline's brother, Joseph, saved Isaac's other two daughters, 12-year-old Allie May and 11-year-old Rosemary.
In his autobiography, Isaac Cline claimed that he had taken it upon himself to travel along the beach and other low-lying areas warning people personally of the storm's approach. It is known that around noon on September 8, he did breach Weather Bureau protocol by making a unilateral decision to issue a hurricane warning without first securing authorization from the Bureau's central office in Washington, D.C.. Cline estimated that thousands of lives were saved because of his decision not to wait for approval. However, no eyewitnesses reported seeing Cline personally warning people along the beach. Writer Erik Larson argued in his book Isaac's Storm that Cline did not warn anyone in Galveston prior to the issuance of his office's hurricane warning.
Shortly before the destruction of Galveston, the Weather Bureau began establishing regional forecasting centers. The center for the Gulf Coast was initially located in Galveston, with Isaac Cline as chief forecaster; his brother Joseph, a fellow meteorologist, worked for him there. In 1901, the center was moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, and Isaac Cline moved with it. There he developed a stellar reputation over the years, successfully forecasting significant levels of flooding in 1912, 1915 and 1927. In 1927, he published the book Tropical Cyclones, a collection of his research. He was also the chief meteorogist in New Orleans during the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. In 1934, by that time well respected and highly admired in New Orleans, Cline received an honorary doctorate from Tulane University.
Cline retired from the Weather Bureau in 1935, remained in New Orleans, and indulged his longtime interest in art, both by painting and by opening an art shop. He published multiple books about art:
- Art and Artists in New Orleans During the Last Century
- Contemporary Art and Artists in New Orleans (1924)
Cline died in 1955 at the age of 93.
His brother, Joseph Leander Cline, discusses the storm and its aftermath in his autobiography, When the Heavens Frowned (1946, originally published by Mathis Van Nort & Co.).
Additional publications by Isaac Monroe Cline
- Floods in the Lower Mississippi Valley (1928)
- Cyclones, Hurricanes, and Typhoons and Other Storms (1934)
- A Century of Progress in the Study of Cyclones: Aids in Forecasting Movements and Destructive Agencies in Tropical Cyclones (1942)
- Storms, Floods and Sunshine (1945)
- Larson, Erik (1999). Isaac's Storm. Random House Publishing. ISBN 0-609-60233-0.
- Heidorn, Keith. "Dr Isaac M. Cline: A Man of Storm and Floods"
- "Isaac Monroe Cline: 1861 – 1955", NOAA Celebrates 200 Years
- Isaac Monroe Cline (1926). Tropical Cyclones (First ed.). The Macmillan Co.
- John M. Barry (1998). Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How it Changed America. Simon & Schuster.
- Isaac Monroe 1861-1955 Cline (Creator) (Oct 25, 2011). Art and Artists in New Orleans During the Last Century. Nabu Press. ISBN 978-1248327616.
- Isaac Monroe Cline (1924). Contemporary Art and Artists in New Orleans. New Orleans: Louisiana State Museum.
- Corpus Christi Times, Corpus Christi, TX, Thurs. Aug 4,1955, Pg.12
- Joseph Leander Cline (January 31, 2000). When the Heavens Frowned. Firebird Press. ISBN 978-1565547834.
- Isaac Monroe Cline (1928). Floods in the Lower Mississippi Valley. New Orleans: New Orleans Board of Trade.
- Isaac Monroe Cline (1934). Cyclones, Hurricanes, and Typhoons and Other Storms. Unknown binding.
- Isaac Monroe Cline (1942). A Century of Progress in the Study of Cyclones: Aids in Forecasting Movements and Destructive Agencies in Tropical Cyclones. Rogers Printing Co.
- Isaac Monroe Cline (1945). Storms, Floods and Sunshine. Pelican Publishing Company.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Isaac Cline.|
- Works by or about Isaac Cline at Internet Archive
- Keith C. Heidorn, PhD. (September 1, 2000). THE WEATHER DOCTOR: Weather Doctor's Weather People and History: "Dr. Isaac M. Cline: A Man of Storm and Floods".
- Keith C. Heidorn, PhD. (September 1, 2000). THE WEATHER DOCTOR: Weather Doctor's Weather People and History: "Weather Events: The 1900 Galveston Hurricane".
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA Central Library. (Last updated June 8, 2006). NOAA History: "NOAA Legacy Time Line 1807-1899"