September 8

Photo of the Day

House in Galveston on Avenue N, October 15, 1900

The Deadliest Disaster in American History

On September 8, 1900, the coastal city of Galveston, Texas was hit by a hurricane like none that the U.S. has ever experienced before or since. Winds of 120 mph slammed the city with flying debris that cut through homes like shrapnel. Waves crashed onto the streets, leaving the city 15 feet underwater at one point. And, worst of all, virtually nobody had the foresight to evacuate.

Galvestonians had experienced ocean flood waters from storms before but hadn’t ever done much more than board up windows and build beach houses up off the ground as prevention. This lack of preparation would cost them dearly.

The Galveston Hurricane of 1900 remains the deadliest natural disaster in modern U.S. history, leaving behind an estimated death toll of 8,000-12,000 people.

The actual death toll will never be known because the magnitude of the disaster far exceeded the ability to accurately count and identify bodies. It is very likely that many of the dead were washed out to sea. Nevertheless, it was the deadliest natural disaster in America?s history.

The trouble began on Friday, September 7, when Galveston was issued a storm warning by the central office of the Weather Bureau (now the National Weather Service). A single-paragraph story with a headline that read “Storm in the Gulf” appeared in the following day’s newspaper but did little to cause the citizens much concern.

However, Isaac M. Cline, a Weather Bureau official, drove his horse-drawn buggy through Galveston’s neighbourhoods, urging people to seek shelter. Even Cline didn’t believe there was cause for serious concern, though, writing in 1891?that “it would be impossible for any cyclone to create a storm wave which could materially injure the city.” (It should be noted that Cline survived the storm, but of course, those words would haunt him dearly.)

But as the tides began to rise and the winds came, Galveston was punished with unmerciful hurricane winds that left sheer chaos in their wake.

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