On Thursday, August 30, 1900, the storm was just off the eastern coast of Antigua, where Francis Watts, an agricultural chemist with the government laboratory in St. Johns, observed a falling barometer and curiously shifty winds. At 9:00 a.m., the lab's barometer recorded pressure of 29.96 inches, still in the normal range. By midafternoon, the pressure had fallen to 29.84.
"About 10 p.m.," Watts reported, "a thunderstorm sprung up to the S.W. and came up over the land, appearing to be most severe over the region S.W. of St. Johns Harbor and generally within a radius of 3 miles of St. Johns. It died away after midnight. While it lasted it was very severe; the lightning was brilliant and almost continuous, while the flashes were very quickly followed by loud peals of thunder."
Shortly before the storm's arrival, strange weather had settled on the island. The day was intensely hot, the sky rimmed with a reddish-yellow light. There was, according to the Antigua Standard, an "ominous" stillness.
Excerpted from ISAAC'S STORM. Copyright © 1999 by Erik Larson.