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Galveston Hurricane of 1900

Galveston Hurricane of 1900

Overview
The Hurricane of 1900 made landfall
Landfall (meteorology)
Landfall is the event of a tropical cyclone or a waterspout coming onto land after being over water. When a waterspout makes landfall it is reclassified as a tornado, which can then cause damage inland...

 on the city of Galveston
Galveston, Texas
Galveston is a coastal city located on Galveston Island in the U.S. state of Texas. , the city had a total population of 47,743 within an area of...

 in the U.S. state of Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

, on September 8, 1900.
It had estimated winds of 145 miles per hour (233.4 km/h) at landfall, making it a Category 4 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale
Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale
The Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale , or the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale , classifies hurricanes — Western Hemisphere tropical cyclones that exceed the intensities of tropical depressions and tropical storms — into five categories distinguished by the intensities of their sustained winds...

. It was the deadliest hurricane in US history, and the second costliest hurricane in US history based on the US dollar's 2005 value (to compare costs with those of Hurricane Katrina and others).

The hurricane
Tropical cyclone
A tropical cyclone is a storm system characterized by a large low-pressure center and numerous thunderstorms that produce strong winds and heavy rain. Tropical cyclones strengthen when water evaporated from the ocean is released as the saturated air rises, resulting in condensation of water vapor...

 caused great loss of life with the estimated death toll between 6,000 and 12,000 individuals; the number most cited in official reports is 8,000, giving the storm the third-highest number of deaths or injuries of any Atlantic hurricane, after the Great Hurricane of 1780
Great Hurricane of 1780
The Great Hurricane of 1780, also known as Hurricane San Calixto, the Great Hurricane of the Antilles, and the 1780 Disaster, is the deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record. Over 20,000 people died when the storm passed through the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean between October 10 and October...

 and 1998
1998 Atlantic hurricane season
The 1998 Atlantic hurricane season officially began on June 1, 1998, and lasted until November 30, 1998. These dates conventionally delimit the period of each year when most tropical cyclones form in the Atlantic basin; however, the season extended through December 1 as Hurricane Nicole remained...

's Hurricane Mitch
Hurricane Mitch
Hurricane Mitch was the most powerful hurricane and the most destructive of the 1998 Atlantic hurricane season, with maximum sustained winds of 180 mph . The storm was the thirteenth tropical storm, ninth hurricane, and third major hurricane of the season. Along with Hurricane Georges, Mitch...

.
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Encyclopedia
The Hurricane of 1900 made landfall
Landfall (meteorology)
Landfall is the event of a tropical cyclone or a waterspout coming onto land after being over water. When a waterspout makes landfall it is reclassified as a tornado, which can then cause damage inland...

 on the city of Galveston
Galveston, Texas
Galveston is a coastal city located on Galveston Island in the U.S. state of Texas. , the city had a total population of 47,743 within an area of...

 in the U.S. state of Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

, on September 8, 1900.
It had estimated winds of 145 miles per hour (233.4 km/h) at landfall, making it a Category 4 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale
Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale
The Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale , or the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale , classifies hurricanes — Western Hemisphere tropical cyclones that exceed the intensities of tropical depressions and tropical storms — into five categories distinguished by the intensities of their sustained winds...

. It was the deadliest hurricane in US history, and the second costliest hurricane in US history based on the US dollar's 2005 value (to compare costs with those of Hurricane Katrina and others).

The hurricane
Tropical cyclone
A tropical cyclone is a storm system characterized by a large low-pressure center and numerous thunderstorms that produce strong winds and heavy rain. Tropical cyclones strengthen when water evaporated from the ocean is released as the saturated air rises, resulting in condensation of water vapor...

 caused great loss of life with the estimated death toll between 6,000 and 12,000 individuals; the number most cited in official reports is 8,000, giving the storm the third-highest number of deaths or injuries of any Atlantic hurricane, after the Great Hurricane of 1780
Great Hurricane of 1780
The Great Hurricane of 1780, also known as Hurricane San Calixto, the Great Hurricane of the Antilles, and the 1780 Disaster, is the deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record. Over 20,000 people died when the storm passed through the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean between October 10 and October...

 and 1998
1998 Atlantic hurricane season
The 1998 Atlantic hurricane season officially began on June 1, 1998, and lasted until November 30, 1998. These dates conventionally delimit the period of each year when most tropical cyclones form in the Atlantic basin; however, the season extended through December 1 as Hurricane Nicole remained...

's Hurricane Mitch
Hurricane Mitch
Hurricane Mitch was the most powerful hurricane and the most destructive of the 1998 Atlantic hurricane season, with maximum sustained winds of 180 mph . The storm was the thirteenth tropical storm, ninth hurricane, and third major hurricane of the season. Along with Hurricane Georges, Mitch...

. The Galveston Hurricane of 1900 is to date the deadliest natural disaster
Natural disaster
A natural disaster is the effect of a natural hazard . It leads to financial, environmental or human losses...

 ever to strike the United States. By contrast, the second-deadliest storm to strike the United States, the 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane
1928 Okeechobee Hurricane
The Okeechobee hurricane, or San Felipe Segundo hurricane, was a deadly hurricane that struck the Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, and Florida in September of the 1928 Atlantic hurricane season...

, caused more than 2,500 deaths, and the deadliest storm of recent times, Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was a powerful Atlantic hurricane. It is the costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes, in the history of the United States. Among recorded Atlantic hurricanes, it was the sixth strongest overall...

, claimed the lives of approximately 1,800 people.

The hurricane occurred before the practice of assigning official code names to tropical storms was instituted, and thus it is commonly referred to under a variety of descriptive names. Typical names for the storm include the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, the Great Galveston Hurricane, and, especially in older documents, the Galveston Flood. It is often referred to by Galveston locals as The Great Storm or The 1900 Storm.

Meteorological history



The storm's origins are unclear, because of the limited observation ability at the end of the 19th century. Ship reports were the only reliable tool for observing hurricanes at sea, and because wireless telegraphy
Wireless telegraphy
Wireless telegraphy is a historical term used today to apply to early radio telegraph communications techniques and practices, particularly those used during the first three decades of radio before the term radio came into use....

 was in its infancy, these reports were not available until the ships put in at a harbor. The 1900 storm, like many powerful Atlantic hurricanes, is believed to have begun as a Cape Verde-type hurricane
Cape Verde-type hurricane
A Cape Verde-type hurricane is an Atlantic hurricane that develops near the Cape Verde islands, off the west coast of Africa. The average hurricane season has about two Cape Verde-type hurricanes, which are usually the largest and most intense storms of the season because they often have plenty of...

—a tropical wave
Tropical wave
Tropical waves, easterly waves, or tropical easterly waves, also known as African easterly waves in the Atlantic region, are a type of atmospheric trough, an elongated area of relatively low air pressure, oriented north to south, which move from east to west across the tropics causing areas of...

 moving off the western coast of Africa. The first formal sighting of the hurricane's precursor occurred on August 27, about 1000 miles (1,609.3 km) east of the Windward Islands
Windward Islands
The Windward Islands are the southern islands of the Lesser Antilles, within the West Indies.-Name and geography:The Windward Islands are called such because they were more windward to sailing ships arriving in the New World than the Leeward Islands, given that the prevailing trade winds in the...

, when a ship recorded an area of "unsettled weather." The storm passed through the Leeward Islands
Leeward Islands
The Leeward Islands are a group of islands in the West Indies. They are the northern islands of the Lesser Antilles chain. As a group they start east of Puerto Rico and reach southward to Dominica. They are situated where the northeastern Caribbean Sea meets the western Atlantic Ocean...

 on August 30, probably as a tropical depression as indicated by barometric pressure reports from Antigua
Antigua
Antigua , also known as Waladli, is an island in the West Indies, in the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean region, the main island of the country of Antigua and Barbuda. Antigua means "ancient" in Spanish and was named by Christopher Columbus after an icon in Seville Cathedral, Santa Maria de la...

.

Three days later, Antigua
Antigua
Antigua , also known as Waladli, is an island in the West Indies, in the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean region, the main island of the country of Antigua and Barbuda. Antigua means "ancient" in Spanish and was named by Christopher Columbus after an icon in Seville Cathedral, Santa Maria de la...

 reported a severe thunderstorm passing over, followed by the hot, humid calmness that often occurs after the passage of a tropical cyclone. By September 1, U.S. Weather Bureau observers were reporting on a "storm of moderate intensity (not a hurricane)" southeast of Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

. Continuing westward, the storm made landfall on southwest Cuba on September 3, dropping heavy rains. On September 5, it emerged into the Florida Straits as a tropical storm or a weak hurricane.

The storm was reported to be north of Key West
Key West
Key West is an island in the Straits of Florida on the North American continent at the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys. Key West is home to the southernmost point in the Continental United States; the island is about from Cuba....

 on September 6, and in the early morning hours of Friday, September 7, the Weather Bureau office in New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is a major United States port and the largest city and metropolitan area in the state of Louisiana. The New Orleans metropolitan area has a population of 1,235,650 as of 2009, the 46th largest in the USA. The New Orleans – Metairie – Bogalusa combined statistical area has a population...

, issued a report of heavy damage along the Louisiana
Louisiana
Louisiana is a state located in the southern region of the United States of America. Its capital is Baton Rouge and largest city is New Orleans. Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are local governments equivalent to counties...

 and Mississippi
Mississippi
Mississippi is a U.S. state located in the Southern United States. Jackson is the state capital and largest city. The name of the state derives from the Mississippi River, which flows along its western boundary, whose name comes from the Ojibwe word misi-ziibi...

 coasts. Details of the storm were not widespread; damage to telegraph lines limited communication. The Weather Bureau's central office in Washington, D.C., ordered storm warnings raised from Pensacola, Florida
Pensacola, Florida
Pensacola is the westernmost city in the Florida Panhandle and the county seat of Escambia County, Florida, United States of America. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 56,255 and as of 2009, the estimated population was 53,752...

, to Galveston. By the afternoon of the 7th, large swells from the southeast were observed on the Gulf, and clouds at all altitudes began moving in from the northeast. Both of these observations are consistent with a hurricane approaching from the east. The Galveston Weather Bureau office raised its double square flags; a hurricane warning was in effect. The ship Louisiana encountered the hurricane at 1 p.m. that day after departing New Orleans. Captain Halsey estimated wind speeds of 100 mph (160.9 km/h). These winds correspond to a Category 2 hurricane in the modern-day Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale
Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale
The Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale , or the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale , classifies hurricanes — Western Hemisphere tropical cyclones that exceed the intensities of tropical depressions and tropical storms — into five categories distinguished by the intensities of their sustained winds...

.

By early afternoon on Saturday, September 8, a steady northeastern wind had picked up. By 5 p.m., the Bureau office was recording sustained hurricane-force winds. That night, the wind direction shifted to the east, and then to the southeast as the hurricane's eye began to pass over the island just west of the city. By 11 p.m., the wind was southerly and diminishing. On Sunday morning, clear skies and a 20 mi/h breeze off the Gulf of Mexico greeted the Galveston survivors. The storm continued on, and later tracked into Oklahoma
Oklahoma
Oklahoma is a state located in the South Central region of the United States of America. With an estimated 3,751,351 residents as of the 2010 census and a land area of 68,667 square miles , Oklahoma is the 28th most populous and 20th-largest state...

. From there, it continued over the Great Lakes
Great Lakes
The Great Lakes are a collection of freshwater lakes located in northeastern North America, on the Canada – United States border. Consisting of Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario, they form the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth by total surface, coming in second by volume...

 while still sustaining winds of almost 40 mph (as recorded over Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Milwaukee is the largest city in the U.S. state of Wisconsin, the 28th most populous city in the United States and 39th most populous region in the United States. It is the county seat of Milwaukee County and is located on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan. According to 2010 census data, the...

) and passed north of Halifax
City of Halifax
Halifax is a city in Canada, which was the capital of the province of Nova Scotia and shire town of Halifax County. It was the largest city in Atlantic Canada until it was amalgamated into Halifax Regional Municipality in 1996...

, Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the most populous province in Atlantic Canada. The name of the province is Latin for "New Scotland," but "Nova Scotia" is the recognized, English-language name of the province. The provincial capital is Halifax. Nova Scotia is the...

, on September 12, 1900. From there it traveled into the North Atlantic where it disappeared from observations, after decimating a schooner fleet fishing off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador is the easternmost province of Canada. Situated in the country's Atlantic region, it incorporates the island of Newfoundland and mainland Labrador with a combined area of . As of April 2011, the province's estimated population is 508,400...

, Canada.

Background



At the end of the 19th century, the city of Galveston, Texas, was a booming town with a population of 37,000 residents. Its position on the natural harbor of Galveston Bay
Galveston Bay
Galveston Bay is a large estuary located along the upper coast of Texas in the United States. It is connected to the Gulf of Mexico and is surrounded by sub-tropic marshes and prairies on the mainland. The water in the Bay is a complex mixture of sea water and fresh water which supports a wide...

 along the Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico is a partially landlocked ocean basin largely surrounded by the North American continent and the island of Cuba. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States, on the southwest and south by Mexico, and on the southeast by Cuba. In...

 made it the center of trade and the biggest city in the state of Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

. With this prosperity came a sense of complacency.

A quarter of a century earlier, the nearby town of Indianola
Indianola, Texas
Indianola is a ghost town located on Matagorda Bay in Calhoun County, Texas, United States. The community, once the county seat of Calhoun County, is a part of the Victoria, Texas, Metropolitan Statistical Area. In 1875, the city had a population of 5,000, but on September 15 of that year, a...

 on Matagorda Bay
Matagorda Bay
Matagorda Bay is a large estuary bay on the Texas coast, lying in Calhoun and Matagorda counties and located approximately northeast of Corpus Christi, southeast of San Antonio, southwest of Houston, and southeast of Austin. It is separated from the Gulf of Mexico by Matagorda Peninsula and...

 was undergoing its own boom and was second to Galveston among Texas port cities. Then in 1875, a powerful hurricane blew through, nearly destroying the town. Indianola was rebuilt, though a second hurricane in 1886
Indianola Hurricane of 1886
The Indianola Hurricane of 1886 destroyed the town of Indianola, Texas. It was one of the most intense hurricanes ever to hit the United States.-Meteorological history:...

 caused residents to simply give up and move elsewhere. Many Galveston residents took the destruction of Indianola as an object lesson on the threat posed by hurricanes. Galveston is built on a low, flat island
Galveston Island
Galveston Island is a barrier island on the Texas Gulf coast in the United States, about 50 miles southeast of Houston. The entire island, with the exception of Jamaica Beach, is within the city limits of the City of Galveston....

, little more than a large sandbar along the Gulf Coast. These residents proposed a seawall
Seawall
A seawall is a form of coastal defence constructed where the sea, and associated coastal processes, impact directly upon the landforms of the coast. The purpose of a seawall is to protect areas of human habitation, conservation and leisure activities from the action of tides and waves...

 be constructed to protect the city, but their concerns were dismissed by the majority of the population and the city's government.

Since its formal founding in 1839, the city of Galveston had weathered numerous storms, all of which the city survived with ease. Residents believed any future storms would be no worse than previous events. In order to provide an official meteorological
Meteorology
Meteorology is the interdisciplinary scientific study of the atmosphere. Studies in the field stretch back millennia, though significant progress in meteorology did not occur until the 18th century. The 19th century saw breakthroughs occur after observing networks developed across several countries...

 statement on the threat of hurricanes, Galveston Weather Bureau section director Isaac Cline
Isaac Cline
Isaac Monroe Cline was the chief meteorologist at the Galveston, Texas office of the US Weather Bureau from 1889 to 1901. In that role, he became an integral figure in the devastating Galveston Hurricane of 1900....

 wrote an 1891 article in the Galveston Daily News in which he argued not only that a seawall was not needed to protect the city, but also that it would be impossible for a hurricane of significant strength to strike the island. The seawall was not built, and development activities on the island actively increased its vulnerability to storms. Sand dunes along the shore were cut down to fill low areas in the city, removing what little barrier there was to the Gulf of Mexico.

Preparations



On September 4, the Galveston office of the U.S. Weather Bureau began receiving warnings from the Bureau's central office in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, that a "tropical storm" had moved northward over Cuba. The Weather Bureau forecasters had no way of knowing where the storm was or where it was going. At the time, they discouraged the use of terms such as tornado or hurricane to avoid panicking residents in the path of any storm event. Conditions in the Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico is a partially landlocked ocean basin largely surrounded by the North American continent and the island of Cuba. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States, on the southwest and south by Mexico, and on the southeast by Cuba. In...

 were ripe for further strengthening of the storm. The Gulf had seen little cloud cover for several weeks, and the seas were as warm as bathwater, according to one report. For a storm system that feeds off moisture, the Gulf of Mexico was enough to boost the storm from a tropical storm to a hurricane in a matter of days, with further strengthening likely.

Weather Bureau forecasters believed the storm would travel northeast and affect the mid-Atlantic coast. "To them, the storm appeared to have begun a long turn or 'recurve' that would take it first into Florida, then drive it northeast toward an eventual exit into the Atlantic." Cuban forecasters disagreed, saying the hurricane would continue west. One Cuban forecaster predicted the hurricane would continue into central Texas near San Antonio
San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio is the seventh-largest city in the United States of America and the second-largest city within the state of Texas, with a population of 1.33 million. Located in the American Southwest and the south–central part of Texas, the city serves as the seat of Bexar County. In 2011,...

. Early the next morning, the swells continued despite only partly cloudy skies. Largely because of the unremarkable weather, few residents heeded the warning. Few people evacuated across Galveston's bridges to the mainland, and the majority of the population was unconcerned by the rain clouds that had begun rolling in by midmorning.

Isaac Cline
Isaac Cline
Isaac Monroe Cline was the chief meteorologist at the Galveston, Texas office of the US Weather Bureau from 1889 to 1901. In that role, he became an integral figure in the devastating Galveston Hurricane of 1900....

 claimed that he took it upon himself to travel along the beach and other low-lying areas warning people personally of the storm's approach. This is based on Cline's own reports and has been called into question in recent years, as no other survivors corroborated his account. Cline's role in the disaster is the subject of some controversy. Supporters point to Cline's issuing a hurricane warning without permission from the Bureau's central office; detractors (including author Erik Larson) point to Cline's earlier insistence that a seawall was unnecessary and his belief that an intense hurricane could not strike the island.

Impact



Texas evacuees


The first train to reach Galveston left Houston on the morning of September 8 at 9:45 a.m. It found the tracks washed out, and passengers were forced to transfer to a relief train on parallel tracks to complete their journey. Even then, debris on the track kept the train's progress to a crawl. The 95 travelers on the train from Beaumont
Beaumont, Texas
Beaumont is a city in and county seat of Jefferson County, Texas, United States, within the Beaumont–Port Arthur Metropolitan Statistical Area. The city's population was 118,296 at the 2010 census. With Port Arthur and Orange, it forms the Golden Triangle, a major industrial area on the...

 found themselves at the Bolivar Peninsula waiting for the ferry that would carry them, train and all, to the island. When they arrived the high seas forced the ferry captain to give up on his attempt to dock. The train crew attempted to return the way they had come, but rising water blocked the train's path.

Ten refugees from the Beaumont train sought shelter at the Point Bolivar lighthouse with 200 residents of Port Bolivar
Port Bolivar, Texas
Port Bolivar is an unincorporated area located in the Bolivar Peninsula census-designated place, in Galveston County, Texas, United States state of Texas within Galveston County and part of the metropolitan area., Port Bolivar had a population of 1,200...

 that were already there. The 85 that stayed with the train died when the storm surge
Storm surge
A storm surge is an offshore rise of water associated with a low pressure weather system, typically tropical cyclones and strong extratropical cyclones. Storm surges are caused primarily by high winds pushing on the ocean's surface. The wind causes the water to pile up higher than the ordinary sea...

 overran the tops of the cars.

Galveston



At the time of the 1900 storm the highest point in the city of Galveston was only 8.7 feet (2.7 m) above sea level
Sea level
Mean sea level is a measure of the average height of the ocean's surface ; used as a standard in reckoning land elevation...

. The hurricane had brought with it a storm surge
Storm surge
A storm surge is an offshore rise of water associated with a low pressure weather system, typically tropical cyclones and strong extratropical cyclones. Storm surges are caused primarily by high winds pushing on the ocean's surface. The wind causes the water to pile up higher than the ordinary sea...

 of over 15 feet (4.6 m), which washed over the entire island. The surge knocked buildings off their foundations and the surf pounded them to pieces. Over 3,600 homes were destroyed and a wall of debris faced the ocean. The few buildings which survived, mostly solidly built mansions and houses along the Strand District
Strand National Historic Landmark District
The Strand Historic District, also known as the Strand District, in downtown Galveston, Texas , is a National Historic Landmark District of mainly Victorian era buildings that now house restaurants, antique stores, and curio shops. The area is a major tourist attraction for the island city and also...

, are today maintained as tourist attractions.

The highest measured wind speed was 100 miles per hour (160.9 km/h) just after 6 p.m., but the Weather Bureau's anemometer
Anemometer
An anemometer is a device for measuring wind speed, and is a common weather station instrument. The term is derived from the Greek word anemos, meaning wind, and is used to describe any airspeed measurement instrument used in meteorology or aerodynamics...

 was blown off the building shortly after that measurement was recorded. The eye passed over the city around 8 p.m. Maximum winds were estimated at 120 mi/h at the time, though later estimates placed the hurricane at the higher Category 4 classification on the Saffir-Simpson Scale
Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale
The Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale , or the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale , classifies hurricanes — Western Hemisphere tropical cyclones that exceed the intensities of tropical depressions and tropical storms — into five categories distinguished by the intensities of their sustained winds...

. The lowest recorded barometric pressure was 28.48 inHg (964.4 hPa), considered at the time to be so low as to be obviously in error. Modern estimates later placed the storm's central pressure at 27.49 inHg (930.9 hPa), but this was subsequently adjusted to the storm's official lowest measured central pressure of 27.63 inHg (935.7 hPa).
As severe as the damage to the city's buildings was, the human toll was even greater. Because of the destruction of the bridges to the mainland and the telegraph lines, no word of the city's destruction was able to reach the mainland. At 11 a.m. on September 9, one of the few ships at the Galveston wharfs to survive the storm, the Pherabe, arrived in Texas City
Texas City, Texas
Texas City is a city in Chambers and Galveston counties in the U.S. state of Texas. The population was 41,521 at the 2000 census. It is a part of the Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown, Texas Metropolitan Statistical Area.-History:...

 on the western side of Galveston Bay. It carried six messengers from the city. When they reached the telegraph office in Houston at 3 a.m. on September 10, a short message was sent to Texas Governor
Governor of Texas
The governor of Texas is the head of the executive branch of Texas's government and the commander-in-chief of the state's military forces. The governor has the power to either approve or veto bills passed by the Texas Legislature, and to convene the legislature...

 Joseph D. Sayers
Joseph D. Sayers
Joseph Draper Sayers was the 22nd Governor of Texas from 1899 to 1903. During Sayers's term, the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 demolished that city.- Early years :...

 and U.S. President William McKinley
William McKinley
William McKinley, Jr. was the 25th President of the United States . He is best known for winning fiercely fought elections, while supporting the gold standard and high tariffs; he succeeded in forging a Republican coalition that for the most part dominated national politics until the 1930s...

: "I have been deputized by the mayor and Citizen's Committee of Galveston to inform you that the city of Galveston is in ruins." The messengers reported an estimated five hundred dead; this was considered to be an exaggeration at the time.

The citizens of Houston knew a powerful storm had blown through and had made ready to provide assistance. Workers set out by rail and ship for the island almost immediately. Rescuers arrived to find the city completely destroyed. It is believed 8,000 people—20% of the island's population—had lost their lives. Estimates range from 6,000 to 12,000. Most had drowned
Drowning
Drowning is death from asphyxia due to suffocation caused by water entering the lungs and preventing the absorption of oxygen leading to cerebral hypoxia....

 or been crushed as the waves pounded the debris
Debris
Debris is rubble, wreckage, ruins, litter and discarded garbage/refuse/trash, scattered remains of something destroyed, or, in geology, large rock fragments left by a melting glacier etc. The singular form of debris is debris...

 that had been their homes hours earlier. Many survived the storm itself but died after several days trapped under the wreckage of the city, with rescuers unable to reach them. The rescuers could hear the screams of the survivors as they walked on the debris trying to rescue those they could. A further 30,000 were left homeless.


The dead bodies were so numerous that burying them all was not possible. The dead were initially weighted down and dumped at sea, but when the gulf currents washed many of the bodies back onto the beach, a new solution was needed. Funeral pyre
Funeral Pyre
"Funeral Pyre" is The Jam's thirteenth single released on 6 June 1981. Backed by the B-side "Disguises", a cover of a Who track, it reached #4 in the UK Singles chart....

s were set up wherever the dead were found and burned for weeks after the storm. The authorities passed out free whiskey to sustain the distraught men conscripted for the gruesome work of collecting and burning the dead. More people were killed in this single storm than the total of those killed in all the tropical cyclones that have struck the United States since. This count is greater than 300 cyclones, as of 2009. The Galveston Hurricane of 1900 remains the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history.

Midwest


The storm maintained tropical characteristics and Saffir-Simpson Category A tropical storm strength winds (39–50 mph) when it crossed the Upper Midwest, with more than four inches/10 cm /100 mm of rain being reported over most of the southern third of Wisconsin. Wind created problems all over, including over Lake Michigan, and other areas in the path of the storm had similar problems. Tropical storms reach Wisconsin and surrounding areas to the east, west, and south once every 50 years on average with others in the 19th century, 1961, and (subject to debate) Hurricane Ike
Hurricane Ike
Hurricane Ike was the second-costliest hurricane ever to make landfall in the United States, the costliest hurricane ever to impact Cuba and the second most active hurricane to reach the Canadian mainland in the Great Lakes Region after Hurricane Hazel in 1954...

 in 2008; tropical depressions hit twice to three times every two years; and subtropical storms and depressions hit equally or more rarely than their tropical counterparts.

New York City


The rapidly moving storm was still exhibiting winds of 65 mph (104.6 km/h) by the time it reached New York City on September 12, 1900. The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

reported that pedestrian walking became difficult and that one death was attributed to the storm. A sign pole, snapped by wind, landed on a 23-year old man, crushing his skull and killing him instantly, while two others were knocked unconscious. Awnings and signs on many buildings broke and the canvas roofing at the Fire Department headquarters was blown off.

Closer to the waterfront, along the Battery seawall, waves and tides were reported to be some of the highest in recent memory of the fishermen and sailors. Spray and debris were thrown over the wall, making working along the waterfront dangerous. Small craft in New York Harbor
New York Harbor
New York Harbor refers to the waterways of the estuary near the mouth of the Hudson River that empty into New York Bay. It is one of the largest natural harbors in the world. Although the U.S. Board of Geographic Names does not use the term, New York Harbor has important historical, governmental,...

 were thrown off course and tides and currents in the Hudson River
Hudson River
The Hudson is a river that flows from north to south through eastern New York. The highest official source is at Lake Tear of the Clouds, on the slopes of Mount Marcy in the Adirondack Mountains. The river itself officially begins in Henderson Lake in Newcomb, New York...

 made navigation difficult. In Brooklyn
Brooklyn
Brooklyn is the most populous of New York City's five boroughs, with nearly 2.6 million residents, and the second-largest in area. Since 1896, Brooklyn has had the same boundaries as Kings County, which is now the most populous county in New York State and the second-most densely populated...

, The Times reported that trees were uprooted, signs and similar structures were blown down, and yachts were torn from moorings with some suffering severe damage. Because of the direction of the wind, Coney Island
Coney Island
Coney Island is a peninsula and beach on the Atlantic Ocean in southern Brooklyn, New York, United States. The site was formerly an outer barrier island, but became partially connected to the mainland by landfill....

 escaped the fury of the storm, though a bathing pavilion at "Bath Beach" suffered damage from wind and waves.

Aftermath


About 8,000 people were killed and the city destroyed. The survivors had little to live on until relief arrived.

Rebuilding


Survivors set up temporary shelters in surplus U.S. Army tents along the shore. They were so numerous that observers began referring to it as the "White City on the Beach." Others constructed so-called "storm lumber" homes, using salvageable material from the debris to build shelter.

Reporter Winifred Bonfils
Winifred Bonfils
Winifred Sweet Black Bonfils was an American reporter and columnist for William Randolph Hearst's news syndicate writing as Winifred Black, and for the San Francisco Examiner as Annie Laurie...

, a young journalist working for William Randolph Hearst
William Randolph Hearst
William Randolph Hearst was an American business magnate and leading newspaper publisher. Hearst entered the publishing business in 1887, after taking control of The San Francisco Examiner from his father...

, was the first reporter on the line at the flood's aftermath. She delivered an exclusive set of reports and Hearst sent relief supplies by train.

By September 12, the first post-storm mail was received at Galveston. The next day, basic water service was restored, and Western Union
Western Union
The Western Union Company is a financial services and communications company based in the United States. Its North American headquarters is in Englewood, Colorado. Up until 2006, Western Union was the best-known U.S...

 began providing minimal telegraph
Telegraphy
Telegraphy is the long-distance transmission of messages via some form of signalling technology. Telegraphy requires messages to be converted to a code which is known to both sender and receiver...

 service. Within three weeks, cotton was again being shipped out of the port.

Prior to the Hurricane of 1900, Galveston was considered to be a beautiful and prestigious city and was known as the "Ellis Island
Ellis Island
Ellis Island in New York Harbor was the gateway for millions of immigrants to the United States. It was the nation's busiest immigrant inspection station from 1892 until 1954. The island was greatly expanded with landfill between 1892 and 1934. Before that, the much smaller original island was the...

 of the West" and the "Wall Street
Wall Street
Wall Street refers to the financial district of New York City, named after and centered on the eight-block-long street running from Broadway to South Street on the East River in Lower Manhattan. Over time, the term has become a metonym for the financial markets of the United States as a whole, or...

 of the Southwest." However, after the storm, development shifted north to Houston, which was enjoying the benefits of the oil
Petroleum
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

 boom. The dredging of the Houston Ship Channel
Houston Ship Channel
The Houston Ship Channel, located in Houston, Texas, is part of the Port of Houston—one of the United States's busiest seaports. The channel is the conduit for ocean-going vessels between the Houston-area shipyards and the Gulf of Mexico.-Overview:...

 in 1909 and 1914 ended Galveston's hopes of returning to its former state as a major commercial center.

Protection



To prevent future storms from causing destruction like that of the 1900 hurricane, many improvements to the island were made. The first 3 miles (4.8 km) of the 17 feet (5 m) high Galveston Seawall
Galveston Seawall
The Galveston Seawall is a seawall in Galveston, Texas, USA that was built after the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 for protection from future hurricanes. Construction began in September, 1902, and the initial segment was completed on July 29, 1904. From 1904 to 1963, the seawall was extended from ...

 was built beginning in 1902 under the direction of Henry Martyn Robert
Henry Martyn Robert
Henry Martyn Robert was the author of Robert's Rules of Order, which became the most widely used manual of parliamentary procedure and remains today the most common parliamentary authority in the United States....

. An all-weather bridge was constructed to the mainland to replace the ones destroyed in the storm.

The most dramatic effort to protect the city was its raising. Dredged sand was used to raise the city of Galveston by as much as 17 feet (5.2 m) above its previous elevation. Over 2,100 buildings were raised in the process, including the 3,000-ton St. Patrick's Church. The seawall and raising of the island were jointly named a National Historical Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers
American Society of Civil Engineers
The American Society of Civil Engineers is a professional body founded in 1852 to represent members of the civil engineering profession worldwide. It is the oldest national engineering society in the United States. ASCE's vision is to have engineers positioned as global leaders who strive toward...

 in 2001.

In 1915, a storm similar in strength and track to the 1900 hurricane struck Galveston. The 1915 storm
1915 Galveston Hurricane
The 1915 Galveston Hurricane was a deadly hurricane that struck Leeward Islands, Hispanola, Cuba and Texas, in mid August of the 1915 Atlantic hurricane season...

 brought a 12 ft (4 m) storm surge which tested the new seawall. Although 53 people on Galveston Island
Galveston Island
Galveston Island is a barrier island on the Texas Gulf coast in the United States, about 50 miles southeast of Houston. The entire island, with the exception of Jamaica Beach, is within the city limits of the City of Galveston....

 lost their lives in the 1915 storm, this was a great reduction from the thousands that died in 1900.

The Galveston city government was reorganized into a commission government
City commission government
City commission government is a form of municipal government which once was common in the United States, but many cities which were formerly governed by commission have since switched to the council-manager form of government...

, a newly devised structure wherein the government is made of a small group of commissioners, each responsible for one aspect of governance. This was prompted by fears that the existing city council would be unable to handle the problem of rebuilding the city.
Today, Galveston is home to a major cruise port, two universities, and a major insurance corporation. Homes and other buildings that survived the hurricane have been preserved, and give much of the city a Victorian
Victorian architecture
The term Victorian architecture refers collectively to several architectural styles employed predominantly during the middle and late 19th century. The period that it indicates may slightly overlap the actual reign, 20 June 1837 – 22 January 1901, of Queen Victoria. This represents the British and...

 look. The seawall, since extended to 10 miles (16.1 km), is now an attraction itself, as hotels and tourist attractions have been built along its length in seeming defiance of future storms.

The last reported survivor of the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, Mrs. Maude Conic of Wharton, Texas
Wharton, Texas
Wharton is a city in Wharton County, Texas, United States. The population was 9,237 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Wharton County and is located on the Colorado River of Texas just south of U.S...

, died November 14, 2004, at the claimed age of 116. (Census records indicate she was younger than that.)

Historiography


Historiographically
Historiography
Historiography refers either to the study of the history and methodology of history as a discipline, or to a body of historical work on a specialized topic...

 the hurricane and the rebuilding afterward divide what is known as the Golden Era (1875–1900) from the Open Era (1920–1957) of Galveston. The most important long-term impact of the hurricane was to confirm fears that Galveston was a dangerous place to make major investments in shipping and manufacturing operations; the economy of the Golden Era was no longer possible as investors fled. In 1920, Prohibition
Prohibition in the United States
Prohibition in the United States was a national ban on the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol, in place from 1920 to 1933. The ban was mandated by the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution, and the Volstead Act set down the rules for enforcing the ban, as well as defining which...

 and lax law enforcement opened up new opportunities for criminal enterprises
Organized crime
Organized crime or criminal organizations are transnational, national, or local groupings of highly centralized enterprises run by criminals for the purpose of engaging in illegal activity, most commonly for monetary profit. Some criminal organizations, such as terrorist organizations, are...

 related to gambling
Gambling
Gambling is the wagering of money or something of material value on an event with an uncertain outcome with the primary intent of winning additional money and/or material goods...

 and bootlegging
Rum-running
Rum-running, also known as bootlegging, is the illegal business of transporting alcoholic beverages where such transportation is forbidden by law...

 in the city. Galveston rapidly became a prime resort
Resort
A resort is a place used for relaxation or recreation, attracting visitors for holidays or vacations. Resorts are places, towns or sometimes commercial establishment operated by a single company....

 destination enabled by the open vice
Vice
Vice is a practice or a behavior or habit considered immoral, depraved, or degrading in the associated society. In more minor usage, vice can refer to a fault, a defect, an infirmity, or merely a bad habit. Synonyms for vice include fault, depravity, sin, iniquity, wickedness, and corruption...

 businesses on the island. This new entertainment-based economy brought decades-long prosperity to the island.

Museum


The Galveston Historical Foundation maintains the Texas Seaport Museum at Pier 21 in the port of Galveston. Included in the museum is a documentary titled "The Great Storm" that gives a recounting of the 1900 hurricane.

See also



Further reading


  • The 1900 Storm. Galveston Newspapers Inc. Retrieved on December 18, 2007.
  • Bixel, Patricia Bellis and Turner, Elizabeth Hayes. (2000) Galveston and the 1900 Storm: Catastrophe and catalyst (1st ed.). University of Texas Press
    University of Texas Press
    The University of Texas Press is a university press that is part of the University of Texas at Austin. Established in 1950, the Press publishes scholarly books in several areas, including Latin American studies, Texana, anthropology, U.S...

     ISBN 978-0-292-70883-9
  • Larson, Erik. (1999) Isaac's Storm: A Man, A Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History (1st ed.). New York: Crown Publishers. ISBN 978-0-609-60233-1
  • Lienhard, John H. Raising Galveston. The Engines of Our Ingenuity, University of Houston
    University of Houston
    The University of Houston is a state research university, and is the flagship institution of the University of Houston System. Founded in 1927, it is Texas's third-largest university with nearly 40,000 students. Its campus spans 667 acres in southeast Houston, and was known as University of...

    . Retrieved on December 18, 2007.
  • Greene, Casey Edward and Kelly, Shelly Henley. (2000) Through a Night of Horrors: Voices from the 1900 Galveston Storm. Texas A&M University Press ISBN 978-1-58544-228-7
  • Weems, John Edward. (1957) Weekend in September. Texas A&M University Press ISBN 978-0-89096-390-6


External links