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Galveston Hurricane of 1900

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Author Topic: Galveston Hurricane of 1900  (Read 6175 times)
Jessie Phallon
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« Reply #45 on: September 08, 2007, 03:57:12 pm »

Another view of Lucas Terrace amidst a field of debris.
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Jessie Phallon
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« Reply #46 on: September 08, 2007, 03:58:31 pm »

The S.S. Alamo as seen from the destruction at Mallory Wharf.
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Jessie Phallon
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« Reply #47 on: September 08, 2007, 03:59:29 pm »

Survivors survey the damage to shops on Market Street in the business district.
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Jessie Phallon
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« Reply #48 on: September 08, 2007, 04:00:37 pm »

A group of men stops to pose in the debris of the Grand Hotel.
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Jessie Phallon
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« Reply #49 on: September 08, 2007, 04:01:35 pm »

A boat lies wedged against the debris of a dock at Pier 16.
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Jessie Phallon
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« Reply #50 on: September 08, 2007, 04:02:40 pm »

The University of Texas Medical Branch's "Old Red" after the storm.
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« Reply #51 on: September 08, 2007, 04:04:34 pm »

A ship sits lopsided amid the rubble at Pier 12.
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« Reply #52 on: September 08, 2007, 04:05:38 pm »

Timber and scaffolding litter the scene at Pier 21.

Tuesday, Sept. 11, 1900: Galveston wiped out

Posted Friday, September 23rd, 2005

Word of the terrible hurricane that struck Galveston, Texas, on Sept. 8, 1900, reached Minneapolis Tribune readers on Sunday, Sept. 9. The scale of the disaster was made clear to readers two days later in this eyewitness account on page one. The word “hurricane” is used just once; “tempest” and “storm” were evidently the preferred terms for the nameless killer:

Waters of the Gulf of Mexico Submerge and Tor-
nado Levels Galveston, Tex., and Sweep Over
Mainland as Far as Houston.


Whole Families Are Either Killed Like Rats in a
Trap or Are Swept Away by the
Angry Waves.


Nearly a Whole Command of United States Soldiers
Meet Death – Five Thousand Persons May
Have Been Lost.

By Wire from Houston, Tex., Sept. 11

Richard Spillane, a well known Galveston newspaper man and day correspondent of the Associated Press in that city, who reached Houston yesterday after a terrible experience, gave the following account yesterday of the disaster at Galveston:

“One of the most awful tragedies of modern times has visited Galveston. The city is in ruins and the dead will number probably 1,000. I am just from the city, having been commissioned by the mayor and citizens’ committee to get in touch with the outside world and appeal for help. Houston was the nearest point at which working telegraph instruments could be found, the wires, as well as nearly all the buildings between here and the Gulf of Mexico, being wrecked.

“When I left Galveston, shortly before noon yesterday, the people were organizing for the prompt burial of the dead, distribution of food and all necessary work after a period of disaster.

“The wreck of Galveston was brought about by the tempest so terrible that no words can adequately describe its intensity and by a flood which turned the city into a raging sea. The weather bureau records show that the wind attained a velocity of 84 miles an hour, when the measuring instrument blew away, so it is impossible to tell what was the maximum.

The storm surge of the nameless hurricane reduced much of Galveston to rubble – and left thousands dead. (AP photo)

“The storm began at 2 o’clock Saturday morning. Previous to that a great storm had been raging in the gulf and the tide was very high. The wind at first came from the north, and was in direct opposition to the force from the gulf. While the storm in the gulf piled the water upon the beach-side of the city, the north wind piled the water from the bay on the bay part of the city.

“About noon it became evident that the city was going to be visited with disaster. Hundreds of residences along the beach front were hurriedly abandoned, the families fleeing to dwellings in higher portions of the city. Every home was opened to the refugees, black or white. The winds were rising constantly and it rained in torrents. The wind was so fierce that the rain cut like a knife.


“By 3 o’clock the waters of the gulf and bay met, and by dark the entire city was submerged. The flooding of the electric light plant and the gas plant left the city in darkness. To go upon the streets was to court death. The winds were then at cyclonic velocity, roofs, cisterns, portions of buildings, telegraph poles were falling and the noise of the winds and the crashing of buildings were terrifying in the extreme.

The wind and water rose steadily from dark until 1:45 o’clock Sunday morning. During all this time the people of Galveston were like rats in traps. The highest portion of the city was four to five feet under water, while in the great majority of cases the streets were submerged to a depth of 16 feet. To leave a house was to drown. To remain was to court death in the wreckage.

“Such a night of agony has seldom been equaled. Without apparent reason the waters suddenly began to subside at 1:45 a.m. Within 20 minutes, they had gone down two feet, and before daylight the streets were practically freed of the dark waters.

“In the meantime the wind had moved to the southwest. Very few if any buildings escaped injury. There is hardly a habitable dry house in the city. When the people who had escaped death went out at daylight to view the work of the tempest and the floods they saw the most horrible sights imaginable. In the three blocks from Avenue N to Avenue P, in Tremont street, I saw eight bodies. Four corpses were in one yard.

“The whole of the business front for three blocks in from the gulf was stripped of every vestige of habitation, the dwellings, the great bathing establishments, the Olympia and every structure were either carried out to sea or its ruins made into a pyramid in the center of the town, according to the vagaries of the storm.


“The first hurried glance over the city showed that the largest structures, supposed to be the most substantially built, suffered the greatest. The Orphans’ Home, Twenty-first street and Avenue M, fell like a house of cards. How many dead children and refugees are in the ruins could not be ascertained.

“Of the sick in St. Mary’s Infirmity, together with attendants, only eight are understood to have been saved. The Old Woman’s Home, on Rosenberg avenue, collapsed; the Rosenberg school house is a mass of wreckage. The Ball high school is but an empty shell, crushed and broken. Every church in the city, with possibly one or two exceptions, is in ruins.

“At the forts nearly all the soldiers are reported dead, they having been in temporary quarters which gave them no protection against the tempest or the flood. No report has been received from the Catholic orphan asylum, down the island, but it seems impossible that it could have withstood the hurricane. If it fell, all the inmates were no doubt lost, for there was no aid within a mile.

“The bay front from end to end is in ruins. Nothing but piling and the wreck of great warehouses remain. The elevators are damaged by the water. The life saving station at Fort Point was carried away, the crew being swept across the bay, 14 miles to Texas City.

The Gresham House, center, now known as Bishop’s Palace, was relatively unscathed amid the debris. Sacred Heart Catholic Church, at right, was heavily damaged. (AP photo)

“I saw Capt. Haines yesterday and he told me that his wife and one of his crew were drowned. The shore at Texas City contains enough wreckage to rebuild a city. Eight persons were picked up there alive. Five corpses were also picked up. There were three fatalities in Texas City. In addition to the living and the dead, which the storm cast up at Texas City, caskets and coffins from one of the cemeteries at Galveston were being fished out of the water there yesterday.

How many more corpses are there will not be known until the search is finished. The cotton mills, the bagging factory, the gas works, the electric light works and nearly all the industrial establishments of the city are either wrecked or crippled. The flood left a slime about one inch deep over the whole city and unless fast progress is made in burying corpses and carcasses of animals there is danger of pestilence.

“Some of the stories of escapes are miraculous. William Nisbett, a cotton man, was buried in the ruins of the cotton exchange saloon, and when dug out in the morning had no further injury than a few bruised fingers.

“It will take a week to tabulate the dead and the missing, and to get anything near an approximate idea of the monetary loss. It is safe to assume that one-half of the property of the city is wiped out and that one-half of the residents have to face absolute poverty.”
« Last Edit: September 08, 2007, 04:35:37 pm by Jessie Phallon » Report Spam   Logged
Jessie Phallon
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« Reply #53 on: September 08, 2007, 04:07:37 pm »

Facts and Figures

Remembering the 1900 Storm ...

On September 8, 1900, a hurricane struck Galveston. Winds estimated at 140 mph swept over the island, leaving devastation in their wake. After the storm surge of 15.7 feet subsided, Galvestonians left their shelters to find 6,000 of the city's 37,000 residents dead and more than 3,600 buildings totally destroyed.

The 1900 Storm is still considered to be the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history. After the storm, Galveston constructed a seawall and raised the grade of the island to protect it from future hurricanes.


Facts about the 1900 Storm:

• 8.7 feet: The highest elevation on Galveston Island in 1900.

• 15.7 feet: The height of the storm surge.

• 28.55 inches: Barometric pressure recorded in Galveston, 30 miles from where the eye of the storm is best estimated. At the time, this was the lowest barometric pressure ever recorded.

• 6,000 to 8,000: Number of people estimated to have died during the storm.

• 37,000 people: Population of Galveston in 1900.

• 3,600: Number of buildings destroyed by the storm.

• 130 to 140 miles per hour: Speed meteorologists estimate the winds reached during the storm.

• $20 million: Estimated damage costs related to the storm. In today's dollars, that would be more than $700 million.

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Jessie Phallon
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« Reply #54 on: September 08, 2007, 04:11:02 pm »

The dawn of the 20th century ushered in many dramatic changes in the United States. The Wright Brothers conducted flight experiments at Kittyhawk, North Carolina. The U.S. population was 76 million in 1900 compared to 270 million in the year 2000. And, the U.S. government took in $567 million in 1900. At the end of the 20th century it took in $1.7 trillion.

There were many memorable events in the United States throughout the 20th century. The Galveston, Texas, hurricane of 1900 remains the worst disaster in American history. More than 8,000 people perished September 8, 1900 when the category 4 hurricane barreled into Galveston, where many people were on vacation.

In 1900 there were no weather satellites and no Doppler radar. However, warnings were issue by the U.S. Weather Bureau, the predecessor of NOAA's National Weather Service. People were advised to seek higher ground. Many didn't heed the warnings preferring instead to watch the huge waves.

On September 8, the hurricane slammed into Galveston almost head on. Waves were higher than 15 feet and winds howled at 130 miles per hour. By the time the storm passed, more than 8,000 people were dead, countless were injured and half of the island's homes had been swept away.

Read the report of Isaac Cline, the local forecast official with the U.S. Weather Bureau, who recounts the events of those days. He lost his wife when their home collapsed in the onslaught of the storm.

Can this happen today? It's possible. Even though there have been great technological advances in weather forecasting the past 100 years and the city has erected an 18-foot seawall, Galveston is not invincible to such powerful storms. Since many people in the United States have moved closer to the shore, trying to evacuate the population of Galveston could take days.

NOAA remembers the storm of 1900 and those who lost their lives.
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Jessie Phallon
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« Reply #55 on: September 08, 2007, 04:15:05 pm »


On September 8, 1900, the greatest natural disaster to ever strike the United States occurred at Galveston, Texas. In the early evening hours of September 8, a hurricane came ashore at Galveston bringing with it a great storm surge that inundated most of Galveston Island and the city of Galveston. As a result, much of the city was destroyed and at least 6,000 people were killed in a few hours time. The following is the account of Isaac M. Cline, the senior Weather Bureau employee present at Galveston, of the events leading up to the storm, his personal experiences in the storm, and the aftermath. The horror of Galveston is only partly described in this work. He was probably somewhat still in shock when he wrote this report as he lost his wife when his house collapsed during the storm and virtually all of his possessions. In a later biographical work, he referred to the shooting of hundreds of looters by vigilantes in the aftermath of the storm and the cremation of hundreds of unknown storm victims who otherwise would have decomposed where they lay. This particular report is excerpted from the Monthly Weather Review for September, 1900.



By Isaac M. Cline, Local Forecast Official and Section Director

The hurricane which visited Galveston Island on Saturday, September 8, 1900, was no doubt one of the most important meteorological events in the world's history. The ruin which it wrought beggars description, and conservative estimates place the loss of life at the appalling figure, 6,000.

A brief description of Galveston Island will not be out of place as introductory to the details of this disaster. It is a sand island about thirty miles in length and one and one-half to three miles in width. The course of the island is southwest to northeast, parallel with the southeast coast of the State. The City of Galveston is located on the east end of the island. To the northeast of Galveston is Bolivar Peninsula, a sand spit about twenty miles in length and varying in width from one-fourth of a mile to about three miles. Inside of Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula is Galveston bay, a shallow body of water with an area of nearly five hundred square miles. The length of the bay along shore is about fifty miles and its greatest distance from the Gulf coast is about twenty-five miles. The greater portion of the bay lies due north of Galveston. That portion of the bay which separates the island west of Galveston from the mainland is very narrow, being only about two miles in width in places, and discharges into the Gulf of Mexico through San Louis Pass. The main bay discharges into the Gulf between the jetties; the south one being built out from the northeast end of Galveston Island and the north one from the most southerly point of Bolivar Peninsula. The channel between the jetties is twenty-seven to thirty feet in depth at different stages of the tide. There are channels in the harbor with a depth of thirty to thirty-five feet, and there is an area of nearly two thousand acres with an anchorage depth of eighteen feet or more. The mainland for several miles back of the bay is very low, in fact much of it is lower than Galveston Island, and it is so frequently overflowed by high tide that large areas present a marshy appearance. These are in brief the physical conditions of the territory devastated by the hurricane.

The usual signs which herald the approach of hurricanes were not present in this case. The brick-dust sky was not in evidence to the smallest degree. This feature, which has been distinctly observed in other storms that have occurred in this section, was carefully watched for, both on the evening of the 7th and the morning of the 8th. There were cirrus clouds moving from the southeast during the forenoon of the 7th, but by noon only alto-stratus from the northeast were observed. About the middle of the afternoon the clouds were divided between cirrus, alto-stratus, and cumulus, moving from the northeast. A heavy swell from the southeast made its appearance in the Gulf of Mexico during the afternoon of the 7th. The swell continued during the night without diminishing, and the tide rose to an unusual height when it is considered that the wind was from the north and northwest. About 5 a.m. of the 8th Mr. J. L. Cline, Observer, called me and stated that the tide was well up in the low parts of the city, and that we might be able to telegraph important information to Washington. He having been on duty until nearly midnight, was told to retire and I would look into conditions. I drove to the Gulf, where I timed the swells, and then proceeded to the office and found that the barometer was only one-tenth of an inch lower than it was at the 8 p.m. observation of the 7th. I then returned to the Gulf, made more detailed observations of the tide and swells, and filed the following telegram addressed to the Central Office a Washington:

Unusually heavy swells from the southeast, intervals of one to five minutes, overflowing low places south portion of city three to four blocks from beach. Such high wate4r with opposing winds never observed previously.

Broken stratus and strato-cumulus clouds predominated during the early forenoon of the 8th, with the blue sky visible here and there. Showery weather commenced at 8:45 a.m., but dense clouds and heavy rain were not in evidence until about noon, after which dense clouds with rain prevailed.

The wind during the forenoon of the 8th was generally north, but oscillated, at intervals of from five to ten minutes, between northwest and northeast, and continued so up to 1 p.m. After 1 p.m. the wind was mostly northeast, although as late as 6:30 p.m. it would occasionally back to the northwest for one or two minutes at a time. The prevailing wind was from the northeast until 8:30 p.m., when it shifted to the east, continuing from this direction until about 10 p.m. After 10 p.m. the wind was from the southeast, and after about 11 p.m. the prevailing direction was from the south or southwest. The directions after 11 p.m. are from personal observations. A storm velocity was not attained until about 1 p.m. after which the wind increased steadily and reached a hurricane velocity about 5 p.m. The greatest velocity for five minutes was 84 miles per hour at 6:15 p.m. With two minutes at the rate of 100 miles per hour. The anemometer blew away at this time, and it is estimated that prior to 8 p.m. the wind attained a velocity of at least 120 miles per hour. For a short time, about 8 p.m., just before the wind shifted to the east, there was a distinct lull, but when it came out from the east and southeast it appeared to come with greater fury than before. After shifting to the south at about 11 p.m. the wind steadily diminished in velocity, and a t 8 a.m. on the morning of the 9th was blowing at the rate of 20 miles per hour from the south.

The barometer commenced falling on the afternoon of the 6th and continued falling steadily but slowly up to noon of the 8th, when it read 29.42 inches. The barometer fell rapidly from noon until 8:30 p.m. of the 8th, when it registered 28.48 inches, a fall of pressure of about one inch in eight and one-half hours. After 8:30 p.m. the barometer rose at the same rapid rate that had characterized the fall. The barograph trace sheet during this storm, from noon September 6 to noon September 10, is enclosed as fig. 1. On account of the rapid fall in pressure, Mr. John d. Blagden, Observer, took readings of the mercurial barometer as a check on the barograph, and readings are as follows:

Time. Readings. Time. Readings.

5:00 p.m.............29.05 6:40 p.m.............28.75

5:11 p.m.............29.00 6:48 p.m.............28.70

5:30 p.m.............28.95 7:15 p.m..............28.69

5:50 p.m.............28.90 7:40 p.m.............28.62

6:06 p.m.............28.86 8:00 p.m.............28.55

6:20 p.m.............28.82 8:10 p.m.............28.53

These readings confirm the low pressure shown by barograph and indicate the great intensity of the hurricane.

Mr. Blagden looked after the instruments during the hurricane in a heroic and commendable manner. He kept the wires of the self-registering apparatus intact as long as it was possible for him to reach the roof. The rain gauge blew away about 6 p.m. and the thermometer shelter soon followed. All the instruments in the thermometer shelter were broken, except the thermograph which was found damaged, but has been put in working order.

Storm warnings were timely and received a wide distribution not only in Galveston but throughout the coast region. Warning messages were received from the Central Office at Washington on September 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. The high tide on the morning of the 8th, with storm warning flying, made it necessary to keep one man constantly at the telephone giving out information. Hundreds of people who could not reach us by telephone came to the Weather Bureau office seeking advice. I went down on Strand street and advised some wholesale commission merchants who had perishable goods on their floors to place them 3 feet above the floor. One gentleman has informed me that he carried out my instructions, but the wind blew his goods down. The public was warned, over the telephone and verbally, that the wind would go by the east to the south and that the worst was yet to come. People were advised to seek secure places for the night. As a result thousands of people who lived near the beach or in small houses moved their families into the center of the city and were thus saved. Those who lived in large strong buildings, a few blocks from the beach, one of whom was the writer of this report, thought that they could weather the wind and tide. Soon after 3 p.m. conditions became so threatening that it was deemed essential that a special report be sent at once to Washington. Mr. J. L. Cline, Observer, took the instrumental readings while I drove first to the bay and then to the Gulf, and finding that half the streets of the city were under water added the following to the special observation at 3:30 p.m.: "Gulf rising, water covers streets of about half of city." Having been on duty since 5 a.m., after giving this message to the observer, I went home to lunch. Mr. J. L. Cline went to the telegraph offices through water from two to four feet deep, and found that the telegraph wires had all gone down; he then returned to the office, and by inquiry learned that the long distance telephone had one wire still working to Houston, over which he gave the message to the Western Union telegraph office at Houston to be forwarded to the Central Office at Washington.

I reached home and found the water around my residence waist deep. I at once went to work assisting people, who were not securely located, into my residence, until forty or fifty persons were housed therein. About 6:30 p.m. Mr. J. L. Cline, who had left Mr. Blagden at the office to look after the instruments, reached my residence, where he found the water neck deep. He informed me that the barometer had fallen below 29.00 inches; that no further messages could be gotten off on account of all wires being down, and that he had advised everyone he could see to go to the center of the city; also, that he thought we had better make an attempt in that direction. At this time, however, the roofs of houses and timbers were flying through the streets as though they were paper, and it appeared suicidal to attempt a journey through the flying timbers. Many people were killed by flying timbers about this time while endeavoring to escape to town.

The water rose at a steady rate from 3 p.m. until about 7:30 p.m., when there was a sudden rise of about four feet in as many seconds. I was standing at my front door, which was partly open, watching the water, which was flowing with great rapidity from east to west. The water at this time was about eight inches deep in my residence, and the sudden rise of 4 feet brought it above my waist before I could change my position. The water had now reached a stage 10 feet above the ground at Rosenberg Avenue (Twenty-fifth street) and Q street, where my residence stood. The ground was 5.2 feet elevation, which made the tide 15.2 feet. The tide rose the next hour, between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m., nearly five feet additional, making a total tide in that locality of about twenty feet. These observations were carefully taken and represent to within a few tenths of a foot the true conditions. Other personal observations in my vicinity confirm these estimates. The tide, however, on the bay or north side of the city did not obtain a height of more than 15 feet. It is possible that there was 5 feet of backwater on the Gulf side as a result of debris accumulating four to six blocks inland. The debris is piled eight to fifteen feet in height. By 8 p.m. a number of houses had drifted up and lodged to the east and southeast of my residence, and these with the force of the waves acted as a battering ram against which it was impossible for any building to stand for any length of time, and at 8:30 p.m. my residence went down with about fifty persons who had sought it for safety, and all but eighteen were hurled into eternity. Among the lost was my wife, who never rose above the water after the wreck of the building. I was nearly drowned and became unconscious, but recovered through being crushed by timbers and found myself clinging to my youngest child, who had gone down with myself and wife. Mr. J. L. Cline joined me five minutes later with my other two children, and with them and a woman and child we picked up from the raging waters, we drifted for three hours, landing 300 yards from where we started. There were two hours that we did not see a house nor any person, and from the swell we inferred that we were drifting to sea, which, in view of the northeast wind then blowing, was more than probable. During the last hour that we were drifting, which was with southeast and south winds, the wreckage on which we were floating knocked several residences to pieces. When we landed about 11:30 p.m., by climbing over floating debris to a residence on Twenty-eighth street and Avenue P, the water had fallen about 4 feet. It continued falling, and on the following morning the Gulf was nearly normal. While we were drifting we had to protect ourselves from the flying timbers by holding planks between us and the wind, and with this protection we were frequently knocked great distances. Many persons were killed on top of the drifting debris by flying timbers after they had escaped from their wrecked homes. In order to keep on the top of the floating masses of wrecked buildings one had to be constantly on the lookout and continually climbing from drift to drift. Hundreds of people had similar experiences.

Sunday, September 9, 1900, revealed one of the most horrible sights that ever a civilized people looked upon. About three thousand homes, nearly half the residence portion of Galveston, had been completely swept out of existence, and probably more than six thousand persons had passed from life to death during that dreadful night. The correct number of those who perished will probably never be known, for many entire families are missing. Where 20,000 people lived on the 8th not a house remained on the 9th, and who occupied the houses may, in many instances, never be known. On account of the pleasant Gulf breezes many strangers were residing temporarily near the beach, and the number of these that were lost can not yet be estimated. I enclose a chart, fig. 2, which shows, by shading, the area of total destruction. Two charts of this area have been drawn independently; one by Mr. A. G. Youens, inspector for the local board of underwriters, and the other by myself and Mr. J. L. Cline. The two charts agree in nearly all particulars, and it is believed that the chart enclosed represents the true conditions as nearly as it is possible to show them. That portion of the city west of Forty-fifth street was sparsely settled, but there were several splendid residences in the southern part of it. Many truck farmers and dairy men resided on the west end of the island, and it is estimated that half of these were lost, as but very few residences remain standing down the island. For two blocks, inside the shaded area, the damage amounts to at least fifty per cent of the property. There is not a house in Galveston that escaped injury, and there are houses totally wrecked in all parts of the city. All goods and supplies not over eight feet above floor were badly injured, and much was totally lost. The damage to buildings, personal, and other property in Galveston County is estimated at above thirty million dollars. The insurance inspector for Galveston states that there were 2,636 residences located prior to the hurricane in the area of total destruction, and he estimates 1,000 houses totally destroyed in other portions of the city, making a total of 3,636 houses totally destroyed. The value of these buildings alone is estimated at $5,500,000.

The grain elevators which were full of grain suffered the smallest damage. Ships have resumed loading and work is being rushed day and night. The railroad bridges across the bay were washed away, but one of these has been repaired and direct rail communication with the outside world was established within eleven days after the disaster. Repairs and extensions of wharves are now being pushed forward with great rapidity. Notwithstanding the fact that the streets are not yet clean and dead bodies are being discovered daily among the drifted debris, the people appear to have confidence in the place and are determined to rebuild and reestablish themselves here. Galveston being one of the richest cities of its size in the United States, there is no question but that business will soon regain its normal condition and the city will grow and prosper as she did before the disaster. Cotton is now coming in by rail from different parts of the State and by barge from Houston. The wheels of commerce are already moving in a manner which gives assurance for the future. Improvements will be made stronger and more judiciously; for the past twenty-five years they have been made with the hurricane of 1875 in mind, but no one ever dreamed that the water would reach the height observed in the present case. The railroad bridges are to be built ten feet higher than they were before. The engineer of the Southern Pacific Company has informed me that they will construct their wharves so that they will withstand even such a hurricane as the one we have just experienced.

I believe that a sea wall, which would have broken the swells, would have saved much loss of both life and property. I base this view upon observations which I have made in the extreme northeastern portion of the city, which is practically protected by the south jetty; this part of the city did not suffer more than half the damage that other similarly located districts, without protection, sustained.

From the officers of the U. S. Engineer tug Anna, I learn that the wind at the mouth of the Brazos River went from north to southwest by way of west. This shows that the center of the hurricane was near Galveston, probably not more than 30 miles to the westward. The following towns have suffered great damage, both in the loss of life and property: Texas City, Dickinson, Lamarque, Hitchcock, Arcadia, Alvin, Manvel, Brazoria, Columbia, and Wharton. Other towns further inland have suffered, but not so seriously. The exact damage at these places can not be ascertained.

A list of those lost in Galveston, whose names have been ascertained up to the present time, contains 3,536 names.


GALVESTON, TEX., September 23, 1900.

(The enclosures, figs. 1 and 2, referred to herein, are not published with this report.)


U. S. Department of Agriculture,

Weather Bureau

Office of Chief Clerk Washington, D.C. , October 5, 1900


The following letter is published for the information of the members of the Weather Bureau:

Washington D. C., September 28, 1900.


Local Forecast Official and Section Director,

Weather Bureau, Galveston, Tex.


I desire to most highly commend you and your two assistants, Messrs. Joseph L. Cline and John D. Blagden, for your heroic devotion to duty on the occasion of the hurricane that devastated Galveston on September 8, 1900. The record shows that you were all alert and vigilant from the time the first notice of the storm was received, making frequent observations of the instruments and the weather conditions and disseminating warnings, and that under great personal peril you remained at your posts as long as your services were of any value, performing all duties efficiently and intelligently; that Mr. Blagden, with great skill and courage, kept the wind recording instruments intact as long as it was possible to do so, and took ten-minute readings of the barometer, as a check on the barograph, during the most dangerous period of the storm, from 5:00 to 8:10 p.m. of the 8th; that Mr. Joseph L. Cline, after being on duty until midnight of the 7th, performed faithful and valiant service during the 8th, and after telegraphic communication was cut off, succeeded with great effort in sending by telephone a message to the Central Office containing a special observation, the last message sent out from the doomed city on that fateful day; and that you, from 5:00 a.m. until the wires went down at 3:30 p.m., were constantly on duty, taking tidal observations, preparing reports to the Central Office, and directing the work of the station. Through the efficient service of yourself and your assistants in the dissemination of warnings, thousands of people were enabled to move from the lower to the higher and secure portions of the city and were thus saved.

Your conduct in this terrible crisis furnishes an example of courage and fidelity to duty that every employee of the Bureau should be proud to emulate.

Very respectfully,

Approved: (Signed) WILLIS L. MOORE

JAMES WILSON Chief U. S. Weather Bureau.


« Last Edit: September 08, 2007, 04:16:27 pm by Jessie Phallon » Report Spam   Logged
Jessie Phallon
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« Reply #56 on: September 08, 2007, 04:17:43 pm »

GALVESTON HURRICANE OF 1900.  In Galveston on the rain-darkened and gusty morning of Saturday, September 8, 1900, newspaper readers saw, on page three of the local Daily News (see GALVESTON NEWS), an early-morning account of a tropical hurricane prowling the Gulf of Mexico. On the previous day Galveston had been placed under a storm warning by the central office of the Weather Bureau (now the National Weather Service) in Washington, D.C. A one-column headline announced, "Storm in the Gulf." Under that, a small subhead proclaimed, "Great Damage Reported on Mississippi and Louisiana Coasts-Wires Down-Details Meagre." The story, only one paragraph long, had been sent out of New Orleans at 12:45 A.M. that same day, but it added nothing to the information presented in the headlines. Additional details were unavailable "owing to the prostration of the wires." Beneath the New Orleans report appeared a brief local story: "At midnight the moon was shining brightly and the sky was not as threatening as earlier in the night. The weather bureau had no late advice as to the storm's movements and it may be that the tropical disturbance has changed its course or spent its force before reaching Texas."

This hurricane had been first observed on August 30 in the vicinity of 15° north latitude and 63° west longitude, about 125 miles northwest of Martinique, proceeding westward. Galvestonians had been aware of the storm since September 4, when it was reported moving northward over Cuba. From the first, however, details had been sketchy because of poor communications. Ships at sea, where oncoming hurricanes built strength, had no way of telegraphing weather observations ashore, and other nineteenth-century technical shortcomings interfered. Except for the rain and wind, Saturday began in the city of 38,000 inhabitants much the same as any other weekday. People prepared for another stint in the routine of six-day workweeks then common; not even an encroaching tide disturbed them greatly. Galvestonians had become used to occasional "overflows," when high water swept beachfronts. Houses and stores were elevated as a safeguard.

The tide kept crashing farther inland, and the wind steadily increased. The Weather Bureau official in charge locally, Isaac M. Cline, drove a horse-drawn cart around low areas warning people to leave. Comparatively few people had evacuated the city, however, before bridges from Galveston Island to the mainland fell, and many people along the beach waited until too late to seek shelter in large buildings in a safer area downtown, away from the Gulf. Houses near the beach began falling first. The storm lifted debris from one row of buildings and hurled it against the next row until eventually two-thirds of the city, then the fourth largest in Texas, had been destroyed. People striving to make their way through wind and water to refuge were struck by hurtling bricks and lumber and sometimes decapitated by flying slate from roofs. The greatest wind velocity registered before the anemometer blew away at 5:15 P.M. was an average of eighty-four miles an hour for a five-minute period, but gusts of 100 miles an hour had been recorded, and weathermen's estimates later reached more than 120 miles an hour. About 6:30 P.M. a storm wave, sweeping ashore in advance of the hurricane's vortex, caused a sudden rise of four feet in water depth, and shortly afterward the entire city was underwater to a maximum depth of fifteen feet. This storm wave caused much of the damage. The lowest barometer reading was 28.44, recorded shortly after 7:00 P.M. Around 10:00 P.M. the tide began to fall slowly, and little damage occurred after that.

September 9 dawned on desolation. Most of the city lay in shambles. Between 6,000 and 8,000 people in the city of Galveston had died, and estimated casualties for the entire island ranged from 10,000 to 12,000. Property damage is impossible to estimate by current standards, but contemporary figures ranged from twenty to thirty million dollars. A high-water mark of 15.7 feet and high winds had destroyed a third of the city, including 2,636 houses and 300 feet or 1,500 acres of shoreline. The sixteen ships anchored in the harbor at the time of the storm also suffered extensive damage. More violent and costlier hurricanes have struck coastal areas of the United States since 1900, but because of the death toll the Galveston storm that year was in the 1980s still called the worst recorded natural disaster ever to strike the North American continent.

Out of the chaos, citizens developed the commission form of city governmentqv now used by many other municipalities. Construction began on a six-mile-long seawall standing seventeen feet above mean low tide, and that protective barrier has been extended since then. Inside the city, sand pumped from the Gulf floor raised the grade as much as seventeen feet. This work required advance raising of 2,146 buildings and many streetcar tracks, fireplugs, and water pipes. Trees, shrubs, and flowers had to be removed if the owners wanted to save them. The largest building raised was a 3,000-ton church. It was boosted five feet off the ground with jacks, then fill was pumped underneath; church services were held on schedule. The great storm that wrought all this left a long track. From Texas it traveled into Oklahoma and Kansas, turned northeastward and crossed over the Great Lakes and part of Canada, and on September 12 passed north of Halifax and disappeared into the North Atlantic.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Galveston Daily News, September 8, 1900. Clarence Ousley, ed., Galveston in 1900 (Atlanta, Georgia: Chase, 1900). John Edward Weems, A Weekend in September (New York: Holt, 1957; rpt., College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1980).

John Edward Weems
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Jessie Phallon
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« Reply #57 on: September 08, 2007, 04:22:18 pm »

No. 865:

by John H. Lienhard
Click here for audio of Episode 865.

Image courtesy of Ellen Beasley
Galveston houses lifted in preparation for landfill

Today, a determined city saves itself from extinction. The University of Houston's College of Engineering presents this series about the machines that make our civilization run, and the people whose ingenuity created them.

We Houstonians like to run down to Galveston for seafood, for museums, or just to see ships and the Gulf. It's a nice town. Yet in 1900 Galveston's citizens seriously considered walking away from it -- letting it revert to a swamp. Many did leave.

The Galveston storm was the worst natural disaster America ever suffered. Over 6000 people died. The way the city finally responded to that horror forms one of the great American legends.

Galveston is a long island running west to east. It tilts slightly to the northeast. On the north is a protected harbor. The south side faces the Gulf of Mexico. The 19th-century city lay on the east end. Its highest point was nine feet above sea level. Its mean elevation was only five feet.

The city was flooded repeatedly down through the 19th century. In 1886 a commission talked about building a wall against the sea, but they rejected the idea. It would cost too much. Now Galveston had seen just how bad a hurricane could be. Citizens knew they'd have to either give up their city or protect it.

So by a ratio of 150 to 1 the people who could vote decided to undertake a wild engineering scheme. They would build a great dam, a Sea Wall along the south Gulf coast. It'd be 17 feet high and 3 miles long with a skirt of protective granite rip-rap. But the Sea Wall was a piece of cake compared to what followed. Next they raised the whole city. And this was the major city in Texas.

They slanted the ground so water that got over the Sea Wall could run off toward the bay on the north. That meant raising the ground almost to the lip of the Wall. Then they sloped it downward to eight feet above sea level on the north.

To do that, they cut a canal into the city and began pumping in a slurry of sand and salt water. The water ran off and left sand behind. Homeowners had to lift their houses up on stilts so the slurry could fill in under them.

It took 300 jacks to lift the big brick Moody mansion. It took 700 jacks to lift St. Patrick's church. Of course there was a component of brutality in all that. Some homeowners couldn't afford the raising. Some had to sacrifice the bottom floor of their houses. Some had to abandon their homes entirely.

The work went on in sections for seven years. In 1915 the new city they'd built suffered its first test. A storm every bit as bad as the 1900 hurricane hit Galveston and caused only eight deaths. Since then they've extended the Wall and filled in more land. No one at all died in hurricanes Carla and Alicia.

And, today, the very presence of Galveston is one of the great joys of living in Texas.

I'm John Lienhard, at the University of Houston, where we're interested in the way inventive minds work.

(Theme music)

Walden, D., Raising Galveston. American Heritage of Invention & Technology, Winter 1990, pp. 8-18.
I am grateful to Ellen Beasley, urban architectural historian, for her counsel on, and guided tours of, the raised city of Galveston.

For an astonishing sidelight on the raising of Galvestion and for some additional images of the flood, see Episode 1099.

The Engines of Our Ingenuity is Copyright © 1988-1997 by John H. Lienhard.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2007, 04:23:07 pm by Jessie Phallon » Report Spam   Logged
Jessie Phallon
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« Reply #58 on: September 08, 2007, 04:26:34 pm »

The construction of Galveston's Seawall

The construction of Galveston's Seawall

Rebuilding a city

What makes the story of the nation's greatest natural disaster so unusual is the incomparable optimism of its survivors. For the most part, residents chose to remain in Galveston and rebuild the city they so loved.

"It's not only important because 6,000 people died Saturday night in Galveston, but because the others stayed," said Mike Doherty, chairman of the 1900 Storm Commemoration Committee in Galveston.

And it was those who stayed who built the city that survives today.

Almost immediately after the storm, a committee of residents was convened to plan for the future. Committee members developed the plan to clean up the debris, bury the dead and rebuild the city. These city leaders set out not only to rebuild but to make a better city.

To prevent future floods, city leaders devised a plan not only to build a seawall along the beachfront, but also to raise the grade of the entire city.

Every part of the city would be raised to a level that would be less likely to flood. The elevation of the city was raised about 16 feet at the seawall and gradually sloped toward the bay. The slope dropped one foot in elevation for every 1,500 feet from the beach.

More than 2,100 buildings were raised on jacks. The elevation of the land beneath them was raised by pumping in sand from the bay.

Catwalks were built connecting houses and buildings, and canals were dug through town to allow the dredge barges to bring in the sand.

In 1911, area businessmen raised money to build the Hotel Galvez as a symbol of the prosperity that had returned to Galveston since the storm a decade before.

The city was determined not only to survive, but to grow. That attitude is seen in longtime residents whose families survived the storm. Despite economic recessions and depressions, declines in the shipping industry and changes in the overall economy of the island, there remains a sense of optimism of what Galveston could become. If the city could survive the storm, it could survive anything, or so it is said.

Indeed, the city survived, rebuilt and withstood hurricane after hurricane since that night. No storm since could compare to the intensity of the 1900 Storm.

While no one wants to imagine a storm that could match the strength and lasting effects of that one, any future storm, no matter its devastation, will be compared to the benchmark of Texas storms ó the Great Storm of Sept. 8, 1900, in which 6,000 died and 30,000 survived to tell the story and rebuild the city.
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