The Galveston Storm Of 1900

The Galveston Storm of 1900 is to date our nations worst national disaster. Over 6000 thousand people killed and thousands of businesses swept off the face of the earth by a massive Hurricane, known as the

Galveston, a small barrier island on the coast of Texas, is thirty miles long and two and a half miles wide at its widest point. And it is the location of the worst natural disaster that the United States has ever recorded in its history. The Great Storm of 1900 literally devastated the island.

During the turn of the century Galveston Island was the largest shipping port in the southern U.S.A., second only to New York. There was a large number of the nation's wealthiest citizens residing on or frequenting the island. Add prosperity to a heavy touch of organized crime and the elite who sought to gamble in its clandestine casinos and Galveston made a huge imprint on the growing south in 1900.

But on September 8, 1900, one hundred years ago, Mother Nature showed her most violent side. A deadly temper-tantrum that took lives of between six and seven thousand people, and destroyed over thirty-six hundred homes and businesses. On that dreadful night a hurricane struck the small island of Galveston with winds recorded at one hundred and forty miles per hour (this is the last accurate reading recorded before the measuring device blew away), the storm surge nearing sixteen feet. At the time of the 1900 hurricane the highest elevation on the island was 8.7 ft.

The night skies became what can only be likened to a war zone. Every shattered piece of wood, metal, glass or debris literally became airborne missiles rocketing through the blackness of the night with horrific sounds of fury. Before sunrise the bay and seawaters would meet, completely submerging the island.

The morning after found entire neighborhoods wiped off the face of the island. Fifteen hundred or more acres had been stripped clear of all signs of life. The outgoing tides had amassed a huge line of piled debris that ran the length of the city and climbed some ten feet high. And of course mixed with the wreckage were the corpses, not only the corpses of the good citizens of Galveston, but those of their dogs, cats, cattle and horses, as well.

With the task of proper burials unrealistic and the stanch of the decaying flesh unbearable, the remaining (or newly appointed) city officials passed a ruling and pressed all remaining and able citizens, as well as volunteers to place the corpses on ships and barges. They were buried at sea. Unfortunately that was not the end of the ordeal. Some of the bodies washed back ashore, much worse for wear. The townspeople were forced to burn these bodies.

Thanks to modern technology today state and city officials take remarkable steps to ready the island in the event of a major hurricane. There are evacuation routes and disaster relief plans always on the drawing boards. The island's elevation has been built up over the years, especially in the central district, to the height of twenty-two feet. A massive seawall is the fortification between the city and the sea, towering seventeen feet high and curving outward to deflect the pounding waves. It was built between 1902 and 1904 while memories and reminders of the great storm were still fresh. Later, and after a few more not so devastating storms between the years 1921 - 1962 it would be extended six more times.

Mother nature has been kinder to the island, too, for it has been over 17 years since a hurricane has hit Galveston Island, Texas.

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