it occurred before petulant females -- and later males -- lent their names to
hurricanes, this one will always be known simply as the Galveston storm, or hurricane.
has been the bullseye for many of them, but the one that struck on September 8,
1900, still reigns as the worst natural disaster in United States history because
an estimated 10,000 people lost their lives.|
in memory of the victims of the 1900 Storm|
Photo courtesy Lou Ann Herda
| Residents of the island
city first read about a disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico in their newspapers
on September 4. They knew that the storm had caused damaged on the Mississippi
and Louisiana coasts but paid little heed because such storms occurred frequently.
And the Weather Bureau lacked the ability then to determine that the storm had
strengthened or to communicate such findings with sufficient urgency.|
The night before a moon shown brightly over the Gulf, but the day began with rain
and a wind. Even a rising tide failed to alarm the 38,000 Galvestonians, except
for Weather Bureau official Isaac M. Cline, who inspected water levels in lower
sites and began to warn residents to evacuate to higher ground. Then the wind
and the water came in greater volume than anyone there had ever seen.
Steady winds of 84 mph with gusts up to 100 mph were recorded before a nemomember
was blown away; survivors estimated that the wind eventually reached at least
120 mph. A sudden water rise in the Gulf rushed in, covering the island to a depth
of fifteen feet. Every building sustained damage and a great many were destroyed
when the giant wave crushed one against the other.
The Galveston storm
of 1900 left a significant legacy. Though Galveston
was no longer Texas' largest city -- it ranked fourth in 1900 -- it still enjoyed
considerable importance in trade and transportation. Such was interrupted with
negative consequences for islanders.
Amid such destruction, the city's
government, under an alderman system, ceased to function. It was replaced by an
appointed commission, with each commissioner responsible for a city service such
as the police department, fire departments, or sanitation. This worked so well
that Galvestonians, plus the citizens of over 600 other cities, adopted it, changing
over to elected rather than appointed commissioners.
Built in 1902 to prevent the tidal surge of the 1900 disaster.
was 3.3 miles
Photo courtesy Lou Ann Herda
was constructed on the city's beachfront, and salvageable buildings were raised
on jacks and sand was filled under them to raise the level of the island to that
of the seawall, approximately seventeen feet. |
and East Texas has experienced
other storms, notably Hurricane Carla, but none has matched the granddaddy of
them all, the storm of 1900.
Things Historical August 19-25, 2001column
A syndicated column in
over 40 East Texas newspapers
(Archie P. McDonald is Director of the East
Texas Historical Association and author or editor of over 20 books on Texas)
1900 by Mike Cox|
An important coastal city is devastated by a powerful hurricane. Thousands
are believed dead. Bewildered survivors are left with no water, food, electricity,
transportation or communication. Looters prowl the ruined community, stealing
anything they can carry away. Fires rage out of control, frustrated firefighters
helpless to put them out. Survivors swelter in the heat and humidity as they slosh
through mosquito-infested quagmires. Local officials plead for assistance as those
who can leave town.
New Orleans, Biloxi, or Gulfport? No, Galveston in
the days immediately after Sept. 8-9, 1900, when a powerful hurricane left the
city in ruin. more
Peninsula: Scene of Slaving, Smuggling, Filibustering and Farms by
W. T. Block
Very few areas of Texas can claim a longer
time span of written history than can that thirty-mile sliver of sand known as
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