It was all too much for Moore. Too clear. Moore instituted the ban on Cuban weather telegrams and halted all direct transmission of West Indies storm reports from the bureau’s Havana office to its New Orleans station. The bureau even sought the help of Western Union. On August 28, Willis Moore, then serving as acting secretary of agriculture, wrote to Gen. Thomas T. Eckert, president of Western Union. “The United States Weather Bureau in Cuba has been greatly annoyed by independent observatories securing a few scattered reports and then attempting to make weather predictions and issue hurricane warnings to the detriment of commerce and the embarrassment of the Government service.”

This is from Erik Larson 1999 book, Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History. The subtitle is inaccurate. The Galveston hurricane was the deadliest hurricane in U.S. history. “Isaac” refers to Isaac Monroe Cline, the head of the Signal Corps’ Galveston station. Although Cline was very good at his job, he missed this one. It was inconceivable to him that the storm would move in the direction it did and so he ignored contrary evidence.

Some of the prominent Cuban forecasters, by contrast, were saying that the storm would hit the Texas coast. As we now know, they turned out to be right.

Willis Moore was chief of the U.S. Weather Bureau. The above quote is one of many mentions in the book of Moore’s attempt to centralize information and brand other information as misleading. The term that he probably would have used today is “misinformation” or “disinformation.”

August 28, the date mentioned in the above quote, was in 1900. it was only 13 days before the hurricane hit Galveston and killed somewhere between 6,000 and 8,000 people.

This tendency to centralize seems endemic in government organizations. If Moore had dismissed the Cuban experts the way Francis Collins of the National Institutes for Health dismissed the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration, he might have called them “fringe meteorologists.”

Why mention this now? I joined a book group and this is the book we discussed last week. I couldn’t help but notice the parallels between the federal government’s handling of conflicting information in 1900 and its handling of conflicting information in 2020 and later.