1900 Galveston hurricane

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1900 Galveston hurricane
Category 4 major hurricane (SSHWS/NWS)
Galveston Hurricane (1900) SWA.JPG
Surface weather analysis of the hurricane on September 8, just before landfall.
FormedAugust 27, 1900
DissipatedSeptember 15, 1900
( Extratropical after September 11, 1900)
Highest winds 1-minute sustained:145 mph (230 km/h)
Lowest pressure936 mbar (hPa); 27.64 inHg
(Deadliest in U.S. history; fourth-deadliest Atlantic hurricane)
Damage$35.4 million (1900 USD)
Areas affected Lesser Antilles, Greater Antilles (Dominican Republic and Cuba landfalls), Turks and Caicos Islands, Bahamas, Gulf Coast of the United States (Texas landfall), Midwestern United States, Mid-Atlantic, New England, Eastern Canada
Part of the 1900 Atlantic hurricane season

The Great Galveston hurricane, [1] known regionally as the Great Storm of 1900, [2] [3] was the deadliest natural disaster in United States history, one of the deadliest hurricanes (or remnants) to affect Canada, and the fourth-deadliest Atlantic hurricane overall. The hurricane left between 6,000 and 12,000 fatalities in the United States; the number most cited in official reports is 8,000. Most of these deaths occurred in and near Galveston, Texas, after storm surge inundated the coastline with 8 to 12 ft (2.4 to 3.7 m) of water. In addition to the number killed, the storm destroyed about 7,000 buildings of all uses in Galveston, which included 3,636 destroyed homes; every dwelling in the city suffered some degree of damage. The hurricane left approximately 10,000 people in the city homeless, out of a total population of nearly 38,000. The disaster ended the Golden Era of Galveston, as the hurricane alarmed potential investors, who turned to Houston instead. In response to the storm, three engineers designed and oversaw plans to raise the Gulf of Mexico shoreline of Galveston island by 17 ft (5.2 m) and erect a 10 mi (16 km) seawall.

Canada Country in North America

Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering 9.98 million square kilometres, making it the world's second-largest country by total area. Canada's southern border with the United States, stretching some 8,891 kilometres (5,525 mi), is the world's longest bi-national land border. Its capital is Ottawa, and its three largest metropolitan areas are Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. As a whole, Canada is sparsely populated, the majority of its land area being dominated by forest and tundra. Consequently, its population is highly urbanized, with over 80 percent of its inhabitants concentrated in large and medium-sized cities, with 70% of citizens residing within 100 kilometres (62 mi) of the southern border. Canada's climate varies widely across its vast area, ranging from arctic weather in the north, to hot summers in the southern regions, with four distinct seasons.

Galveston, Texas City in Texas

Galveston is a coastal resort city and port off the southeast coast on Galveston Island and Pelican Island in the American State of Texas. The community of 209.3 square miles (542 km2), with an estimated population of 50,180 in 2015, is the county seat of surrounding Galveston County and second-largest municipality in the county. It is also within the Houston–The Woodlands–Sugar Land metropolitan area at its southern end on the northwestern coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

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 3.3 miles (5.3 km) to over 10 miles (16 km) long.


On August 27, 1900, a ship east of the Windward Islands detected a tropical cyclone, the first observed during the annual season. Initially at tropical storm status, it remained mostly stagnant in intensity while moving steadily west-northwestward and entered the northeastern Caribbean Sea on August 30. The storm made landfall in the Dominican Republic as a weak tropical storm on September 2. It weakened slightly while crossing Hispaniola, before re-emerging into the Caribbean Sea later that day. On September 3, the cyclone struck modern day Santiago de Cuba Province and then slowly drifted along the southern coast of Cuba. Upon reaching the Gulf of Mexico on September 6, the storm strengthened into a hurricane. Significant intensification followed and the system peaked as a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 145 mph (230 km/h) on September 8. Early on the next day, it made landfall near present day Jamaica Beach, Texas. [nb 1] The cyclone weakened quickly after moving inland and fell to tropical storm intensity late on September 9. The storm turned east-northeastward and became extratropical over Iowa on September 11. The extratropical system strengthened while accelerating across the Midwestern United States, New England, and Eastern Canada before reaching the Gulf of Saint Lawrence on September 13. After striking Newfoundland later that day, the extratropical storm entered the far North Atlantic Ocean and weakened, with the remnants last observed near Iceland on September 15.

Windward Islands Islands of the Lesser Antilles, within the West Indies

The Windward Islands, also known as the Islands of Barlovento, are the southern, generally larger islands of the Lesser Antilles, within the West Indies. They lie south of the Leeward Islands, approximately between latitudes 10° and 16° N and longitudes 60° and 62° W. As a group they start from Dominica to, Martinique, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, southward to the north of Trinidad and Tobago and west of Barbados.

Tropical cyclone Is a rotating storm system

A tropical cyclone is a rapidly rotating storm system characterized by a low-pressure center, a closed low-level atmospheric circulation, strong winds, and a spiral arrangement of thunderstorms that produce heavy rain. Depending on its location and strength, a tropical cyclone is referred to by different names, including hurricane, typhoon, tropical storm, cyclonic storm, tropical depression, and simply cyclone. A hurricane is a tropical cyclone that occurs in the Atlantic Ocean and northeastern Pacific Ocean, and a typhoon occurs in the northwestern Pacific Ocean; in the south Pacific or Indian Ocean, comparable storms are referred to simply as "tropical cyclones" or "severe cyclonic storms".

1900 Atlantic hurricane season hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean

The 1900 Atlantic hurricane season featured seven known tropical cyclones, three of which made landfall in the United States. The first system, Hurricane One, was initially observed on August 27. The final storm, Tropical Storm Seven, transitioned into an extratropical cyclone on October 29. These dates fall within the period with the most tropical cyclone activity in the Atlantic. Every storm of the season except Tropical Storm Seven existed simultaneously with another tropical cyclone.

The great storm brought flooding and severe thunderstorms to portions of the Caribbean, especially Cuba and Jamaica. It is likely that much of South Florida experienced tropical storm force winds, though mostly minor damage occurred. Hurricane force winds and storm surge inundated portions of southern Louisiana, though the cyclone left no significant structural damage or fatalities in the state. The hurricane brought strong winds and storm surge to a large portion of east Texas, with Galveston suffering the brunt of the impact. Farther north, the storm and its remnants continued to produce heavy rains and gusty winds, which downed telegraph wires, signs, and trees in several states. Fatalities occurred in other states, including fifteen in Ohio, six in Wisconsin, two in Illinois, two in New York, one in Massachusetts, and one in Missouri. Damage from storm throughout the United States exceeded $34 million. [nb 2] The remnants also brought severe impact to Canada. In Ontario, damage reached about $1.35 million, with $1 million to crops. [nb 3] The remnants of the hurricane caused at least 52 deaths – and possibly as many as 232 deaths – in Canada, mostly due to sunken vessels near Newfoundland and the French territory of Saint-Pierre. Throughout its path, the storm caused more than $35.4 million in damage. [nb 4]

Jamaica Country in the Caribbean

Jamaica is an island country situated in the Caribbean Sea. Spanning 10,990 square kilometres (4,240 sq mi) in area, it is the third-largest island of the Greater Antilles and the fourth-largest island country in the Caribbean. Jamaica lies about 145 kilometres (90 mi) south of Cuba, and 191 kilometres (119 mi) west of Hispaniola.

Louisiana State of the United States of America

Louisiana is a state in the Deep South region of the South Central United States. It is the 31st most extensive and the 25th most populous of the 50 United States. Louisiana is bordered by the state of Texas to the west, Arkansas to the north, Mississippi to the east, and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. A large part of its eastern boundary is demarcated by the Mississippi River. Louisiana is the only U.S. state with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are equivalent to counties. The state's capital is Baton Rouge, and its largest city is New Orleans.

Ohio State of the United States of America

Ohio is a Midwestern state in the Great Lakes region of the United States. Of the fifty states, it is the 34th largest by area, the seventh most populous, and the tenth most densely populated. The state's capital and largest city is Columbus.

Meteorological history

Map plotting the track and the intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir-Simpson scale 1900 Galveston hurricane track.png
Map plotting the track and the intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir–Simpson scale

The system is believed to have started as a tropical wave moving off the western coast of Africa, however, the storm's origins are unclear. [7] This is because of the limited observational methods available to contemporary meteorologists, with ships reports being the only reliable tool for observing hurricanes. [8] The first formal sighting of the hurricane's precursor occurred on August 27, about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) east of the Windward Islands, [4] when a ship encountered an area of unsettled weather. [7] The storm passed through the Leeward Islands on August 30. [4] Antigua reported a severe thunderstorm passing over, followed by the hot, humid calmness that often occurs after the passage of a tropical cyclone. [9] [10]

Tropical wave type of atmospheric trough

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 moves from east to west across the tropics, causing areas of cloudiness and thunderstorms. West-moving waves can also form from the tail end of frontal zones in the subtropics and tropics, and may be referred to as easterly waves, but these waves are not properly called tropical waves; they are a form of inverted trough sharing many characteristics with fully tropical waves. All tropical waves form in the easterly flow along the equatorward side of the subtropical ridge or belt of high pressure which lies north and south of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). Tropical waves are generally carried westward by the prevailing easterly winds along the tropics and subtropics near the equator. They can lead to the formation of tropical cyclones in the north Atlantic and northeastern Pacific basins. A tropical wave study is aided by Hovmöller diagrams, a graph of meteorological data.

Leeward Islands subgroup of islands in the West Indies

The Leeward Islands are a group of islands situated where the northeastern Caribbean Sea meets the western Atlantic Ocean. Starting with the Virgin Islands east of Puerto Rico, they extend southeast to Guadeloupe and its dependencies. In English, the term Leeward Islands refers to the northern islands of the Lesser Antilles chain. The more southerly part of this chain, starting with Dominica, is called the Windward Islands. Dominica was originally considered part of the Leeward Islands, but was transferred from the British Leeward Islands to the British Windward Islands in 1940.

Antigua island in Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua, also known as Waladli or Wadadli by the native population, is an island in the West Indies. It is one of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean region and the main island of the country of Antigua and Barbuda. Antigua and Barbuda became an independent state within the Commonwealth of Nations on 1 November 1981.

Later on August 30, the system moved west-northwestward and emerged into the Caribbean Sea where over the next few days it strengthened slightly while passing south of Puerto Rico. [4] The cyclone made landfall near Baní, Dominican Republic, early on September 2 with winds of 45 mph (75 km/h). [4] Moving west-northwestward, the storm crossed the island of Hispaniola and entered into the Windward Passage near Saint-Marc, Haiti, several hours later. [4] The cyclone then struck near Santiago de Cuba on September 3 as a minimal tropical storm. [4] The system moved slowly west-northward across the island, until emerging into Straits of Florida as a tropical storm or a weak hurricane on September 5. [4] Favorable conditions including warm sea surface temperatures allowed for further strengthening in the Gulf of Mexico. [11] The Weather Bureau ignored reports from Cuban meteorologists because they expected the storm to curve northeast along the Atlantic coast of North America. [12] Forecasters at the Weather Bureau even began stating, inaccurately, that the cyclone was moving northeastward in the Atlantic. However, a region of high pressure had pushed the storm to the west into the Gulf of Mexico. [12]

Puerto Rico Unincorporated territory of the United States

Puerto Rico, officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and briefly called Porto Rico, is an unincorporated territory of the United States located in the northeast Caribbean Sea, approximately 1,000 miles (1,600 km) southeast of Miami, Florida.

Baní Municipality in Peravia, Dominican Republic

Baní is a capital town of the Peravia Province, Dominican Republic. It is the commercial and manufacturing center in a region producing bananas and coffee.

Dominican Republic country in the Caribbean

The Dominican Republic is a country located in the island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antilles archipelago of the Caribbean region. It occupies the eastern five-eighths of the island, which it shares with the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands, along with Saint Martin, that are shared by two sovereign states. The Dominican Republic is the second-largest Caribbean nation by area at 48,671 square kilometers (18,792 sq mi), and third by population with approximately 10 million people, of which approximately three million live in the metropolitan area of Santo Domingo, the capital city.

Hurricane track from September 1 to 10 Galveston hurricane track, Sept 1-10, 1900.jpg
Hurricane track from September 1 to 10

A ship reported the storm to the northwest of Key West, Florida, on September 6. [13] Later that day, the ship Louisiana encountered the hurricane after departing New Orleans, Louisiana. Captain T. P. Halsey estimated wind speeds of 100 mph (160 km/h), [11] which corresponds to Category 2 intensity on the modern-day Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale. [4] The hurricane continued to strengthen significantly while heading west-northwestward across the Gulf of Mexico, becoming a Category 3 hurricane at 06:00 UTC on September 7 and reaching Category 4 intensity about 12 hours later. [4] Upon becoming a Category 4 hurricane, the cyclone was estimated to have reached its peak intensity with sustained wind speeds of 145 mph (230 km/h). [4] By the afternoon of September 7, large swells from the southeast were observed on the Gulf of Mexico, and clouds at all altitudes began moving in from the northeast. Both observations are consistent with a hurricane approaching from the east. [14] On September 8, the hurricane weakened slightly and recurved to the northwest while approaching the coast of Texas. [4]

Key West City in Florida, United States

Key West is an island and city in the Straits of Florida on the North American continent. The city lies at the southernmost end of U.S. Route 1, the longest north-south road in the United States. Key West is the southernmost city in the contiguous United States and the westernmost island connected by highway in the Florida Keys. The island is about 4 miles (6.4 km) long and 1 mile (1.6 km) wide, with a total land mass of 4.2 square miles (11 km2). Duval Street, its main street, is 1.1 miles (1.8 km) in length in its 14-block-long crossing from the Gulf of Mexico to the Straits of Florida and the Atlantic Ocean. Key West is about 95 miles (153 km) north of Cuba at their closest points.

Florida State of the United States of America

Florida is the southernmost contiguous state in the United States. The state is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the northwest by Alabama, to the north by Georgia, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, and to the south by the Straits of Florida. Florida is the 22nd-most extensive, the 3rd-most populous, and the 8th-most densely populated of the U.S. states. Jacksonville is the most populous municipality in the state and the largest city by area in the contiguous United States. The Miami metropolitan area is Florida's most populous urban area. Tallahassee is the state's capital.

The Weather Bureau office in Galveston began observing sustained hurricane-force winds by 22:00 UTC September 8. [14] The cyclone made landfall around 02:00 UTC on September 9 near modern-day Jamaica Beach as a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 140 mph (220 km/h). [4] Upon making landfall, it was estimated that the hurricane had a atmospheric pressure of 936  mbar (27.6  inHg ), the lowest pressure associated with the system. [15] While crossing Galveston Island and West Bay, the eye passed just west of the city of Galveston. [16] The hurricane quickly weakened after moving inland, weakening to a Category 2 around 06:00 UTC on September 9 and then to a Category 1 hurricane about 12 hours later. [4] Later that day, it curved northward and weakened to a tropical storm at 18:00 UTC. [4] About 24 hours later, the cyclone weakened to a tropical depression over Kansas on September 10. [4]

The storm lost tropical characteristics and transitioned into an extratropical cyclone over Iowa by 12:00 UTC on September 11. [4] Moving rapidly east-northeastward, the extratropical system re-intensified, becoming the equivalent of a Category 1 hurricane over Ontario on September 12. [4] The extratropical remnants reached the Gulf of Saint Lawrence early the following day. [4] After crossing Newfoundland and entering the far northern Atlantic hours later, the remnants of the hurricane weakened and were last noted near Iceland on September 15. [4]


In 1900, the city of Galveston, Texas, was a booming town. [17] According to the 1900 Census, the population of Galveston was 37,788, an increase from 29,084 people recorded in the 1890 Census. [18] The city was fourth largest municipality in the state of Texas in 1900 and among the highest per capita income rates in the United States. [19] Galveston had many ornate business buildings in a downtown section called The Strand, which was considered the "Wall Street of the Southwest." [20] The city's position on the natural harbor of Galveston Bay along the Gulf of Mexico made it the center of trade in Texas, and one of the busiest ports in the nation. [21] With this prosperity came a sense of complacency. [22]

A quarter of a century earlier, the nearby town of Indianola on Matagorda Bay was undergoing its own boom. [23] Then in 1875, a powerful hurricane blew through, nearly destroying the town. Indianola was rebuilt, [24] though a second hurricane in 1886 caused most of the town's residents move elsewhere. [23] 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, little more than a large sandbar along the Gulf Coast. These residents proposed a seawall be constructed to protect the city, but the majority of the population and the city's government dismissed their concerns. [25]

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. [nb 5] In order to provide an official meteorological statement on the threat of hurricanes, Galveston Weather Bureau section director Isaac Cline 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. [27] 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. [28]


Seeking valuables in the wreckage, Galveston, Texas.jpg
People rummage through rubble of destroyed houses in Galveston several days after the hurricane
A big tip in Galveston2.jpg
House in Galveston on Avenue N, October 15, 1900

On September 4, the Galveston office of the National Weather Bureau (as it was then called) began receiving warnings from the Bureau's central office in Washington, D.C., that a tropical storm had moved northward over Cuba. [11] 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. The Weather Bureau forecasters had no way of knowing the storm's trajectory, as Weather Bureau director Willis Moore implemented a policy to block telegraph reports from Cuban meteorologists at the Belen Observatory in Havana – considered one of the most advanced meteorological institutions in the world at the time – due to tensions in the aftermath of the Spanish–American War. Moore also changed protocol to force local Weather Bureau offices to seek authorization from the central office before issuing storm warnings. [12]

Weather Bureau forecasters believed that the storm had begun a northward curve into Florida and that it would eventually turn northeastward and emerge over the Atlantic. [29] Cuban forecasters adamantly disagreed, saying the hurricane would continue west. One Cuban forecaster predicted the hurricane would continue into central Texas near San Antonio. [30] On the morning of September 8, the swells continued despite only partly cloudy skies. Largely because of the unremarkable weather, few residents saw cause for concern. Few people evacuated across Galveston's bridges to the mainland, and the majority of the population was unconcerned by the rain clouds that began rolling in by midmorning. [30]

According to his memoirs, Galveston Weather Bureau director Isaac Cline personally traveled by horse along the beach and other low-lying areas to warn people of the storm's approach. [31] However, these reports by Cline and his brother, Galveston meteorologist Joseph L. Cline, [32] have been disputed in recent years. Supporters argue that the account is accurate based on Cline issuing a hurricane warning without permission from the Bureau's central office. [33] Detractors (including author Erik Larson) point to Isaac Cline's earlier insistence that a seawall was unnecessary and his notion that an intense hurricane could not strike the island, even considering it "simply an absurd delusion" to believe otherwise. [34] Further, no other survivors corroborated these accounts. [30]



Antigua reported a severe thunderstorm passing over on August 30, with lower barometric pressures and 2.6 in (66 mm) of rain on the island. In Puerto Rico, the storm produced winds up to 43 mph (69 km/h) at San Juan. [35] Heavy rains fell in Cuba in association with the cyclone, including a peak 24-hour total of 12.58 in (320 mm) in the city of Santiago de Cuba. [36] The city experienced its worst weather since 1877. The southern end of the city was submerged with about 5 ft (1.5 m) of water. Firefighters and police rescued and aided stranded residents. St. George, a German steamer, ran aground at Daiquirí. [37] A telegraph from the mayor of Trinidad, who was asking for assistance from the United States Military Government in Cuba, indicated that the storm destroyed all crops and left many people destitute. [38] In Jamaica, heavy rainfall from the storm caused all rivers to swell. Floodwaters severely damaged banana plantations and washed away miles of railroads. Damage estimates ranged in the thousands of British pounds. [39]

United States

Deadliest United States hurricanes
1 "Galveston" 1900 8,000–12,000
2 "San Ciriaco" 1899 3,400
3 Maria 2017 2,982*
4 "Okeechobee" 1928 2,823
5 "Cheniere Caminada" 1893 2,000
6 Katrina 2005 1,200
7 "Sea Islands" 1893 1,000–2,000
8 "Indianola" 1875 771
9 "Florida Keys" 1919 745
10 "Georgia" 1881 700
Reference: Deadliest US hurricanes [40] [41]

The Great Galveston hurricane made landfall on September 9, 1900, near Galveston, Texas. It had estimated winds of 140 mph (220 km/h) at landfall, making the cyclone a Category 4 storm on the modern day Saffir–Simpson scale. [4] The hurricane caused great loss of life, with a death toll of between 6,000 and 12,000 people; [42] the number most cited in official reports is 8,000, giving the storm the third-highest number of deaths of all Atlantic hurricanes, after the Great Hurricane of 1780 and Hurricane Mitch in 1998. The Galveston hurricane of 1900 is the deadliest natural disaster to strike the United States. [40] [23] This loss of life can be attributed to the fact that officials for the Weather Bureau in Galveston brushed off the reports and they did not realize the threat. [43] The second-deadliest storm to strike the United States, the San Ciriaco hurricane of 1899, caused around 3,400 deaths. [40]

More than $34 million in damage occurred throughout the United States, [14] [44] with about $30 million in Galveston County, Texas, alone. [14] If a similar storm struck in 2010, damage would be approximately $104.33 billion (2010 USD), based on normalization, a calculation that takes into account changes in inflation, wealth, and population. [40] In comparison, the costliest United States hurricanes Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Harvey in 2017 both caused about $125 billion in damage. [45]

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, [46] the Great Galveston hurricane, [1] and, especially in older documents and publications, the Galveston Flood. [47] It is often referred to by Galveston locals as the Great Storm of 1900 or the 1900 Storm. [2] [3]

Florida to Louisiana

Map of rainfall totals in Florida 1900galvestonflorida.png
Map of rainfall totals in Florida

Portions of southern Florida experienced tropical storm force winds, with a sustained wind speed of 48 mph (77 km/h) in Jupiter and 40 mph (64 km/h) in Key West. [35] The hurricane left "considerable damage" in the Palm Beach area, according to The New York Times . Many small boats were torn from their moorings and capsized. The bulkhead of the pier was washed away, while docks and several seawalls were damaged. [48] Rainfall in the state peaked at 5.7 in (140 mm) in Hypoluxo. [49] High winds in North Florida downed telegraph lines between Jacksonville and Pensacola. [50] In Mississippi, the city of Pass Christian recorded winds of 58 mph (93 km/h). [51] Tides produced by the storm inundated about 200 ft (61 m) of railroad tracks in Pascagoula (then known as Scranton), while a quarantine station on Ship Island was swept away. [52]

In Louisiana, the storm produced gale force winds as far inland as DeRidder and as far east as New Orleans, with hurricane-force winds observed in Cameron Parish. Along the coast, storm surge inundated Johnson Bayou, while tides at some locations reached their highest level since the Indianola hurricane of 1875. [53] Winds and storm surge caused severe damage to rice crops, with at least 25% destroyed throughout the state. [54] The community of Pointe à la Hache experienced a total loss of rice crops. [55] Farther east, roads were flooded by storm surge in the communities of Gretna and Harvey near New Orleans, leaving the streets impassable via horses. Winds downed telegraph lines in the southeastern Louisiana in the vicinity of Port Eads. [52] Two men were initially presumed to have drowned after sailing away from Fort St. Philip and not returning in a timely manner, [56] but they were both later found alive. [57]


Floating wreckage near Texas City - typical scene for miles along the water front Floating wreckage, Galveston hurricane, 1900.jpg
Floating wreckage near Texas City – typical scene for miles along the water front

Nearly all of the damage in the United States occurred in Texas, with much of the damage in Galveston. [23] However, many cities outside of Galveston also reported serious damage, [44] with many cities reporting a near or complete loss of all buildings or homes, including Alta Loma, Alvin, [58] Angleton, [59] Brazoria, Brookshire, [58] Chenango, [60] El Campo, [59] Pearland, [58] and Richmond. [59] Throughout Texas in areas other than Galveston at least $3 million in damage occurred to cotton crops, $75,000 to telegraph and telephone poles, and $60,000 to railroads. [44]

At Alvin, 8.05 in (204 mm) of rain fell on September 8, the highest 24-hour total for that city in the month of September. [23] The city suffered nine fatalities and about $50,000 in damage. [44] In West Columbia, the storm destroyed the old capitol building of the former Republic of Texas. [23] Eight deaths occurred in the city. [44] In Quintana, the city experienced extensive damage during this storm and a flood in 1899, causing portions of the community to be abandoned. [23] Throughout Brazoria County alone, the hurricane caused nearly $200,000 in damage and 47 deaths. [44] Houston also experienced significant damage. The hurricane wrought damage to many buildings, including a Masonic temple, a railroad powerhouse, an opera house, a courthouse, and many businesses, [61] churches, homes, hotels, and school buildings. [62] Streets were littered with branches from shade trees and downed electrical wires, leaving several roads completely impassable to cars. [61] The city of Houston suffered about $250,000 in damage and two deaths, [44] one of which occurred when a man was struck by falling timber. [62]

A train heading for Galveston left Houston on the morning of September 8 at 9:45 a.m. CST (15:45 UTC). 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 slowed the train's progress to a crawl. The 95 travelers on the train from Beaumont found themselves at the Bolivar Peninsula waiting for the ferry that would carry them, train and all, to the island. When it 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. [63] Ten refugees from the Beaumont train sought shelter at the Point Bolivar lighthouse with 200 residents of Port Bolivar who were already there. The 85 who stayed with the train died when the storm surge overran the tops of the cars, while every person inside the lighthouse survived. [64]


At the time of the 1900 hurricane, the highest point in the city of Galveston was only 8.7 ft (2.7 m) above sea level. [27] The hurricane brought with it a storm surge of over 15 ft (4.6 m) that washed over the entire island. Storm surge and tides began flooding the city by the early morning hours of September 8. Water rose steadily from 3:00 p.m. (21:00 UTC) until approximately 7:30 p.m. (01:30 UTC September 9), when eyewitness accounts indicated that water rose about 4 ft (1.2 m) in just four seconds. An additional 5 ft (1.5 m) of water had flowed into portions of the city by 8:30 p.m. (02:30 UTC September 9). [14] The cyclone dropped 9 in (230 mm) of precipitation in Galveston on September 8, setting a record for the most rainfall for any 24-hour period in the month of September in the city's history. [66]

The highest measured wind speed was 100 mph (160 km/h) just after 6:00 p.m. on September 8 (00:00 UTC September 9), but the Weather Bureau's anemometer was blown off the building shortly after that measurement was recorded. [27] Contemporaneous estimates placed the maximum sustained wind speed 120 mph (190 km/h). [67] However, survivors reported observing bricks, slate, timbers, and other heavy objects becoming airborne, indicating that winds were likely stronger. [28] Later estimates placed the hurricane at the higher Category 4 classification on the Saffir–Simpson scale. [4] The lowest recorded barometric pressure was 964.4  mbar (28.48  inHg ), considered at the time to be so low as to be obviously an error, [42] but this was subsequently adjusted to the storm's official lowest measured central pressure of 935.7 mbar (27.63 inHg). [68]

Searching for bodies in Galveston in the aftermath of the storm of 1900. At the time this film was shot, the stench of hundreds of bodies could be smelled for miles. One body was discovered (but not filmed) while the camera crew was present.

Few streets in the city escaped wind damage and all streets suffered water damage, [69] with much of the destruction caused by storm surge. All bridges connecting the island to the mainland were washed away, while approximately 15 mi (24 km) of railroad track was destroyed. Winds and storm surge also downed electrical, telegraph, and telephone wires. The surge swept buildings off their foundations and dismantled them. Many buildings and homes destroyed other structures after being pushed into them by the waves, [70] which even demolished structures built to withstand hurricanes. [28] Every home in Galveston suffered damage, with 3,636 homes destroyed. [14] Approximately 10,000 people in the city were left homeless, out of a total population of nearly 38,000. [71] The Tremont Hotel, where hundreds of people sought refuge during the storm, [72] was severely damaged. [69] All public buildings also suffered damage, including city hall which was completely deroofed [70] a hospital, a city gas works, a city water works, and the custom house. [69] The Grand Opera House also sustained extensive damage, but was quickly rebuilt. [73]

Three schools and St. Mary's University were nearly destroyed. Many places of worship in the city also received severe damage or were completely demolished. [69] Of the 39 churches in Galveston, 25 experienced complete destruction, while the others received some degree of damage. [74] During the storm, the St. Mary's Orphans Asylum, owned by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, was occupied by 93 children and 10  sisters. As tides began approaching the property, the sisters moved the children into the girl's dorm, as it was newer and sturdier. Realizing they were under threat, the sisters had the children repeatedly sing Queen of the Waves to calm them. As the collapse of the building appeared imminent, the sisters used a clothesline to tie themselves to six to eight children. The building eventually collapsed. Only three of the children and none of the sisters survived. [75] The few buildings that survived, mostly solidly built mansions and houses along the Strand District, are today maintained as tourist attractions. [76]

Map illustrating the devastation in Galveston Galvestonmap1900hurricane.png
Map illustrating the devastation in Galveston

Early property damage estimates were placed at $25 million. [69] However, itemized estimates from 1901 based on assessments conducted by the Galveston News, the Galveston chamber of commerce, a relief committee, and multiple insurance companies indicated that the storm caused just over $17 million in damage throughout Galveston, including about $8.44 million to residential properties, $500,000 to churches, $656,000 to wharves and shipping properties, $580,000 to manufacturing plants, $397,000 to mercantile buildings, $1.4 million to store merchandise, $670,000 to railroads and telegraph and telephone services, $416,000 to products in shipment, $336,000 to municipality properties, $243,000 to county properties, and $3.16 million to United States government properties. The total also included $115,000 in damage to schools and approximately $100,000 in damage to roads. [74]

The area of destruction an area in which nothing remained standing after the storm consisted of approximately 1,900 acres (770 ha) of land and was arc-shaped, with complete demolition of structures in the west, south, and eastern portions of the city, while the north-central section of the city suffered the least amount of damage. [69] In the immediate aftermath of the storm, a 3 mi (4.8 km) long, 30 ft (9.1 m) wall of debris was situated in the middle of the island. [70] As severe as the damage to the city's buildings was, the death 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 first. [77]

Many who died had their corpses piled onto carts for burial at sea. Galveston - 1900 bodies.jpg
Many who died had their corpses piled onto carts for burial at sea.

At 11:00 a.m. (17:00 UTC) on September 9, one of the few ships at the Galveston wharfs to survive the storm, the Pherabe, arrived in Texas City on the western side of Galveston Bay. It carried six messengers from the city. When they reached the telegraph office in Houston at 3:00 a.m. (09:00 UTC) on September 10, a short message was sent to Texas Governor Joseph D. Sayers and U.S. President William McKinley: "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 initially considered to be an exaggeration. [78] The citizens of Houston knew a powerful storm had blown through and had prepared to provide assistance. Workers set out by rail and ship for the island almost immediately. Rescuers arrived to find the city completely destroyed. [79]

A survey conducted by the Morrison and Fourmy Company in early 1901 indicated a population loss of 8,124, though the company believed that about 2,000 people left the city after the storm and never returned. On this basis, the death toll is no less than 6,000, [80] while estimates range up to 12,000. [42] It is believed 8,000 people—20% of the island's population—had lost their lives. [79] Most had drowned or been crushed as the waves pounded the debris that had been their homes hours earlier. [81] A number of fatalities also occurred after strong winds turned debris into projectiles. [14] Many survived the storm itself but died after several days being 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. [81] More people were killed in this single storm than the total of those killed in at least the next two deadliest tropical cyclones that have struck the United States since. The Galveston Hurricane of 1900 remains the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history. [82]


After moving northward from Texas into Oklahoma, the storm produced winds of near 30 mph (48 km/h) at Oklahoma City. [83] The extratropical remnants of the cyclone then re-intensified to the equivalence of a tropical storm and continued to strengthen, bringing strong winds to the Midwestern United States. Strong winds in Missouri toppled a brick wall under construction in St. Joseph fell over, killing a man and severely injuring another. [84] In Illinois, particularly hard hit was the city of Chicago, which experienced wind gusts up to 84 mph (135 km/h). [35] Thousands of dollars in damage occurred to roofs, trees, signs, and windows. Several people were injured and two deaths occurred in the city, one from a live wire and the other was a drowning after a boat capsized in Lake Michigan. [85] In Wisconsin, a bateau with 18 people on board sank in the Eau Claire River, drowning 6 men and nearly taking the lives of the others. [86] Heavy rains fell in parts of Minnesota. The Minneapolis–Saint Paul area recorded 4.23 in (107 mm) of precipitation over a period of 16-hours. Farther north, several washouts occurred, especially in the northern areas of the state. A bridge, along with a few train cars, were swept away during a washout in Cold Spring. [87]

In Michigan, the storm produced winds around 60 mph (97 km/h) at Muskegon. Tides from Lake Michigan were the highest in several months. According to The Times Herald , the city of Marshall experienced "the severest windstorm of the season", which uprooted trees and damaged several buildings. Throughout the state, winds left between $12,000 and $15,000 in losses to peach orchards, with many peach trees uprooted. Significant losses to apples and pears also occurred. [88] Rough seas in Lake Erie resulted in several maritime incidents offshore Ohio. The John B. Lyon, a 255 ft (78 m) steamer, capsized about 5 mi (8 km) north of Conneaut. Fourteen out of sixteen crew members drowned. A survivor suggested that the ship being overloaded may have been a factor in its sinking. About 10 mi (16 km) farther north, the schooner Dundee sank, causing at least one death. In another incident nearby, the steamer City of Erie, with about 300 passengers aboard, was hit by a tidal wave that swept over the bulwarks. The engine slowed and the steamers later reached safety in Canada with no loss of lives. [89] In Toledo, strong winds disrupted telegraph services. Winds also blew water out of parts of the Maumee River and Maumee Bay to such an extent that they were impassable by vessels due to low water levels. A number of vessels were buried in mud several feet deep, while about 20 others were beached. [90]

New York

A destroyed iron works in Buffalo 1900hurricanebuffalo.png
A destroyed iron works in Buffalo

Of the many cities in New York impacted by the remnants of the hurricane, Buffalo was among the hardest hit. There, winds peaked at 78 mph (126 km/h), downing hundreds of electrical, telegraph, and telephone wires, [91] while numerous trees toppled and some branches fell onto roadways. An oil derrick blew away and landed on the roof of a house, crushing the roof and nearly killing the occupants. [92] A newly-built iron works building was virtually destroyed, causing a loss of about $10,000. [93] At the Pan-American Exposition, the storm damaged several structures, including part of the government building, while two towers were destroyed. Losses at the exposition alone were conservatively estimated at $75,000. [94] One death occurred in Buffalo after a woman inadvertently touched a downed electrical wire obscured by debris. [91] Several nearby resorts received extensive damage. At Woodlawn Beach, several dozens of small boats and a pier were destroyed. Nearly all vessels owned by the Buffalo Canoe Club suffered severe damage or destruction at Crystal Beach. A toboggan slide and a restaurant were also destroyed. Losses in Crystal Beach reached about $5,000. Heavy crop losses occurred over western New York, with fallen apples and peaches completely covering the ground at thousands of acres of orchards. Losses reportedly ranged in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. [95]

The rapidly moving storm was still exhibiting winds of 65 mph (105 km/h) while passing well north of New York City on September 12. [96] The New York Times reported that pedestrian-walking became difficult and that one death was attributed to the storm. A sign pole, snapped by the 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. [97] 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 walking along the waterfront dangerous. Small craft in New York Harbor were thrown off course and tides and currents in the Hudson River made navigation difficult. [98] In Brooklyn, The New York Times reported that trees were uprooted, signs and similar structures were blown down, and yachts were torn from moorings with some suffering severe damage. [99] Because of the direction of the wind, Coney Island escaped the fury of the storm, though a bathing pavilion at Bath Beach suffered damage from wind and waves. [97]

New England

In Connecticut, winds gusted up to about 40 mph (64 km/h). The apple crops, already endangered by drought conditions, suffered severe damage, with the The Boston Globe noting that there was, "hardly an apple left on a tree in the entire state." [100] In the town of Orange, twelve large tents at a fair were ripped. At another fair in New Milford, fifteen tents collapsed, forcing closure of the fair. [101] Along the coast, the storm produced abnormally high tides, with tides reaching their highest heights in six years at Westbrook. Water reached the bulkheads and remained there for several hours. [102] In Rhode Island, the storm left damage in the vicinity of Providence. Telegraph and telephone services were interrupted, but not to such a large extent. Some small crafts in Narragansett Bay received damage, while apple orchards experienced slight losses. [103]

Lightning produced by the storm ignited several brush fires in Massachusetts, particularly in the southeastern portions of the state, with winds spreading the flames. In Plymouth and other nearby towns, some residents evacuated from the fires by boat. Most cottages around the Big Long, Gallows, [104] Halfway, [105] and Little Long ponds were reduced to burning coals. [104] In Everett, orchards in the Woodlawn section suffered complete losses of fruit. Two wooden frame building were demolished, while winds also toppled fences throughout the city. [106] Winds damaged many telephone and electric wires in Cambridge. A lineman sent to fix the electrical wires nearly died when a pole snapped during a fierce wind gust. Orchards in the city suffered near complete loss and many shade trees were also damaged. At least a few chimneys toppled and several others were left leaning. A bathhouse at Harvard University lost a portion of its tin roof and its copper cornices. [107] At Cape Cod, a wind speed of 45 mph (72 km/h) was observed at Highland Light in North Truro. Waves breached the sane dunes at multiple locations along the cape, with water sweeping across a county road at Beach Point in North Truro. A number of fishing boats sank and several fish houses received severe damage. [108] One man drowned in a lake near Andover while canoeing during the storm. [109]

Strong winds in Vermont generated rough seas in Lake Champlain. Early reports indicated that a schooner sunk near Adams Ferry with no survivors, [110] but the vessel was later found safely anchored at Westport, New York. [111] According to a man near the lake, all water from the New York portion of the lake was blown to the Vermont side, crashing ashore in waves as high as 15 to 20 ft (4.6 to 6.1 m). [110] In the state capital of Montpelier, several large trees at the state house were uprooted. Within Montpelier and vicinity, farmers suffered some losses to apples and corn. Telephone and telegraph services were almost completely cut off. In Vergennes, a number of telephone wires snapped, while many apples, pears, and plums were blown off the trees. Additional damage to fruit and shade trees occurred in Middlebury and Winooski. [111] The city of Burlington experienced its worst storm in many years. Winds downed all telephone and telegraph wires, whereas many trees had severe damage. Some homes were deroofed. [112]

In New Hampshire, the storm left extensive in the city of Nashua. Winds tore roofs off a number of buildings, with several roofs landing on the streets or telephone wires. Chimneys in each section of the city collapsed; many people narrowly escaped injury or death. In Nashua and the nearby cities of Brookline and Hollis, thousands of dollars in losses occurred to apple crops, described as "practically ruined". [113] The city of Manchester was affected by "one of the most furious windstorms which visited this city in years." Telephone and telegraph communications were nearly completely out for several hours, while windows shattered and trees snapped. Street railway traffic experienced delays. [114] In Maine, the storm downed trees and chimney and caused property damage in the vicinity of Biddeford. [115]


Deadliest Canada hurricanes
1 "Newfoundland (1)" 1775 4,000–4,163†
2 "Nova Scotia (1)" 1873 600†
3 "Nova Scotia (3)" 1927 173–192†
4 "Labrador" 1882 140
5 Hazel 1954 81
6 "Newfoundland (2)" 1883 80
7 "Nova Scotia (2)" 1926 55–58†
8 "Galveston" 1900 52–232†
9 "Newfoundland (3)" 1935 50†
10 "Saxby Gale" 1869 37+
estimated total
References: Deadliest Atlantic Hurricanes 1492-1994. [116]

From September 12–14, the extratropical remnants of the Galveston hurricane affected six Canadian provinces, resulting in severe damage and extensive loss of life. In Ontario, tides in Lake Ontario ranged from 8 to 10 ft (2.4 to 3.0 m) above normal, wreaking havoc on vessels, beaching several boats, destroying a number of boats, and setting some others adrift. Many other vessels canceled or postponed their departures. Winds reached as high as 77 mph (124 km/h) in Toronto, breaking windows throughout the city. A fire broke out at a flour mill in Paris, and the flames were fanned by the storm, resulting in $350,000 in damage to the mill and 50 other stores and offices. High winds downed electrical, telegraph, and telephone lines in many areas. Total crop damage in Ontario alone amounted to $1 million. Impact to crops was particularly severe at St. Catharines, where many apple, peach, pear, and plum orchards were extensively damaged, with a loss of thousands of dollars. One person died in Niagara Falls, when a man attempted to remove debris from a pump station, but he was swept away into the river instead. Maximum rainfall in Canada reached 3.9 in (100 mm) in Percé, Quebec. [117]

In Nova Scotia, damage was reported in the Halifax area. A plethora of fences and trees fell over, while windows shattered and a house under construction collapsed. Two schooners were driven ashore at Sydney and a brigantine was also beached at Cape Breton Island. Another schooner, known as Greta, capsized offshore Cape Breton Island near Low Point, with the fate of the crew being unknown. On Prince Edward Island, a few barns, a windmill, and a lobster factory were destroyed. Falling trees downed about 40 electrical wires. A house suffered damage after its own chimney fell and collapsed through the roof. Strong winds also tossed a boxcar from its track. A bridge and wharf at St. Peters Bay were damaged. Fruit crops were almost entirely ruined throughout Prince Edward Island. The majority of loss of life in Canada occurred due to numerous shipwrecks off the coasts of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island. The overall death toll in Canadian waters is estimated to be between 52 and 232, making this at least the eighth deadliest hurricane to affect Canada. The large discrepancy between the fatality figures is due to the fact that many people were reported missing. Thus, the exact number of deaths is unknown. [117]


Costliest U.S. Atlantic hurricanes 1900–2017
Direct economic losses, normalized to societal conditions in 2018 [118]
1 "Miami" 1926 $235.9 billion
2 "Galveston" 1900 $138.6 billion
3 Katrina 2005 $116.9 billion
4 "Galveston" 1915 $109.8 billion
5 Andrew 1992 $106.0 billion
6 Sandy 2012  $73.5 billion
7 "Cuba–Florida" 1944  $73.5 billion
8 Harvey 2017  $62.2 billion
9 "New England" 1938  $57.8 billion
10 "Okeechobee" 1928  $54.4 billion
Main article: List of costliest Atlantic hurricanes

In less than 24 hours the city of Galveston was effectively obliterated. With the city in ruins and rail lines to the mainland destroyed, the survivors had little to live on until relief arrived. [119] On September 9, Galveston city officials established the Central Relief Committee for Galveston Storm Sufferers (CRC), chaired by Mayor Walter C. Jones. The CRC was composed of subcommittees for specifics aspects of relief efforts, including burial of the deceased, correspondence, distribution of food and water, finances, hospitalization and rehabilitation for the injured, and public safety. [70]

The dead bodies were so numerous that burying all of them was impossible. Initially, bodies were collected by "dead gangs" and then given to 50 African American men who were forcibly recruited at gunpoint to load them onto a barge. About 700 bodies were taken out to sea to be dumped. However, after gulf currents washed many of the bodies back onto the beach, a new solution was needed. Funeral pyres were set up on the beaches, or wherever dead bodies were found, and burned day and night for several 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. [120]

With thousands dead and roughly 2,000 survivors leaving the city and never returning according to a Morrison and Fourmy Company survey, Galveston initially experienced a significant population decline. [80] Between 1907 and 1914, Congregation B'nai Israel rabbi Henry Cohen and philanthropist Jacob Schiff spearheaded the Galveston Movement. Cohen, Schiff, and others created the movement to draw Jewish immigrants away from the crowded area along the East Coast and toward cities farther west, such as Galveston. Although approximately 10,000 Jewish immigrants arrived in Galveston during this period, few settled in the city or the island, but about one-fourth of them remained in Texas. [121] The 1910 Census reported a population of 36,891 people in Galveston. Although a decline from the 1900 Census, the population loss of thousands of people was nearly reversed. [122]

In the months prior to the hurricane, valet Charles F. Jones and lawyer Albert T. Patrick began conspiring to murder wealthy businessman William Marsh Rice in order to obtain his wealth. Patrick fabricated Rice's legal will with the assistance of Jones. Rice's properties in Galveston suffered extensive damage during the storm. After being informed of the damage, Rice decided to spend $250,000, the entire balance of his checking account, on repairing his properties. With the duo realizing that they would fail to obtain Rice's wealth, Patrick convinced Jones to kill Rice with chloroform as he slept. Immediately after murdering Rice, Jones forged a large check to Patrick in Rice's name. However, Jones misspelled Patrick's name on the check, arousing suspicion and eventually resulting in their arrests and indictments. Rice's estate was used to open an institute for higher learning in Houston in 1912, which was named Rice University in his honor. [123]


A plaque placed on buildings in Galveston to indicate which structures survived the 1900 hurricane Galvestonstormmarker.JPG
A plaque placed on buildings in Galveston to indicate which structures survived the 1900 hurricane

Survivors set up temporary shelters in surplus United States Army tents along the shore. They were so numerous that observers began referring to Galveston as the "White City on the Beach". [124] In the first two weeks following the storm, approximately 17,000 people resided in these tents, vacant storerooms, or public buildings. [125] Others constructed so-called "storm lumber" homes, using salvageable material from the debris to build shelter. [124] The building committee, with a budget of $450,000, opened applications for money to rebuild and repair homes. Accepted applicants were given enough money to build a cottage with three 12 by 12 ft (3.7 by 3.7 m) rooms. By March 1901, 1,073 cottages were built and 1,109 homes had been repaired. [125]

Winifred Bonfils, a young journalist working for William Randolph Hearst, was the first reporter on the line at the hurricane's ground zero in Galveston. She delivered an exclusive set of reports and Hearst sent relief supplies by train. [126] By September 12, Galveston received its first post-storm mail. The next day, basic water service was restored, and Western Union began providing minimal telegraph service. Within three weeks of the storm, cotton was again being shipped out of the port. [14]

A number of cities, businesses, organizations, and individuals made monetary donations toward rebuilding Galveston. By September 15, less than one week after the storm struck Galveston, contributions totaled about $1.5 million. More than $134,000 in donations poured in from New York City alone. Five other major cities St. Louis, Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia had also donated at least $15,000 by September 15. [127] By state, the largest donations included $228,000 from New York, $67,000 from Texas, $56,000 from Illinois, $53,000 from Massachusetts, and $52,000 from Missouri. Contributions also came from abroad, such as from Canada, Mexico, France, Germany, England, and South Africa, [28] including $10,000 each from Liverpool and Paris. Andrew Carnegie made the largest personal contribution, $10,000, while an additional $10,000 was donated by his steel company. [127]

It was one of those monstrosities of nature which defied exaggeration and fiendishly laughed at all tame attempts of words to picture the scene it had prepared. The churches, the great business houses, the elegant residences of the cultured and opulent, the modest little homes of laborers of a city of nearly forty thousand people; the center of foreign shipping and railroad traffic lay in splinters and debris piled twenty feet above the surface, and the crushed bodies, dead and dying, of nearly ten thousand of its citizens lay under them.

Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, after viewing the destruction in Galveston [70]

Clara Barton, the founder and president of the American Red Cross and famous for her responses to crises in the latter half of the 19th century, responded to the disaster and visited Galveston with a team of eight Red Cross workers. This would be the last disaster that Barton responded to, as she was 78-years old at the time and would retire in 1904. After Barton and the team observed the catastrophe, the Red Cross set-up a temporary headquarters at a four-story warehouse in the commercial district. Her presence in Galveston and appeals for contributions resulted in a substantial amount of donations. Overall, 258 barrels, 1,552 pillow cases, and 13 casks of bedding, clothing, crockery, disinfectants, groceries, hardware, medical supplies, and shoes were received at the warehouse, while $17,341 in cash was donated to the Red Cross. Contributions, both monetary gifts and supplies, were estimated to have reached about $120,000. [70]

Before the hurricane of 1900, Galveston was considered to be a beautiful and prestigious city and was known as the "Ellis Island of the West" and the "Wall Street of the Southwest". [128] However, after the storm, development shifted north to Houston, which reaped the benefits of the oil boom, particularly after the discovery of oil at Spindletop on January 10, 1901. [129] The dredging of the Houston Ship Channel began by 1909, [130] which the channel opening in 1914, ended Galveston's hopes of regaining its former status as a major commercial center. [131]

The Galveston city government was reorganized into a commission government in 1901, 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. The apparent success of the new form of government inspired about 500 cities across the United States to adopt a commission government by 1920. However, the commission government fell out of favor after World War I, with Galveston itself switching to council–manager government in 1960. [132]


Seawall, Galveston district No. 3, Sea Wall, From West of Rapid Fire Battery, Fort Crockett - NARA - 278143.jpg
Seawall, Galveston district

To prevent future storms from causing destruction like that of the 1900 hurricane, many improvements to the island were made. The city of Galveston hired a team of three engineers to design structures for protection from future storms Alfred Noble, Henry Martyn Robert, and H. C. Ripley. [133] The three engineers recommended and designed a seawall. In November 1902, residents of Galveston overwhelmingly approved a bond referendum to fund building a seawall, passing the measure by a vote of 3,08521. [120] The first 3 mi (4.8 km) of the Galveston Seawall, 17-foot (5 m) high, were built beginning in 1902 under the direction Robert. In July 1904, the first segment was completed, though construction of the seawall continued for several decades, with the final segment finished in 1963. [134] Upon completion, the seawall in its entirety stretched for more than 10 mi (16 km). [135]

Another dramatic effort to protect Galveston was its raising, also recommended by Noble, Robert, and Ripley. Approximately 15,000,000 cu yd (11,000,000 m3) of sand was dredged from the Galveston shipping channel to raise the city, some sections by as much as 17 ft (5.2 m). [133] Over 2,100 buildings were raised in the process of pumping sand underneath, [31] including the 3,000-short ton (2,700-t) St. Patrick's Church. [28] According to historian David G. McComb, the grade of about 500 blocks had been raised by 1911. [133] The seawall was listed among the National Register of Historic Places on August 18, 1977, [135] while the seawall and raising of the island were jointly named a National Historical Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers on October 11, 2001. [136]

In 1915, a storm similar in strength and track to the 1900 hurricane struck Galveston. The 1915 storm brought a 12-ft (4-m) storm surge that tested the new seawall. Although 53 people on Galveston Island lost their lives in the 1915 storm, this was a great reduction from the thousands who died in 1900. [137] Other powerful tropical cyclones would test the effectiveness of the seawall, including Hurricane Carla in 1961, Hurricane Alicia in 1983, and Hurricane Ike in 2008. Although Galveston was flooded by storm surge during Carla, severe coastal flood-related damage primarily occurred to structures unprotected by the seawall. [23] Following Hurricane Alicia, the Corps of Engineers estimated that the seawall prevented about $100 million in damage. [138] Despite the seawall, Ike left extensive destruction in Galveston due to storm surge, with preliminary estimates indicating that $2 billion in damage occurred to beaches, dwellings, hospitals, infrastructure, and ports. [139] Damage in Galveston and surrounding areas prompted proposals for improvements to the seawall, including the addition of floodgates and more seawalls. [140]

Open Era and beyond

In historiography, 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. [141] Beginning in the 1920s, Prohibition and tax law enforcement opened up new opportunities for criminal enterprises related to gambling and bootlegging in the city. Galveston rapidly became a prime resort destination enabled by the open vice businesses on the island. This new entertainment-based economy brought decades-long prosperity to the island. [142]

To commemorate the hurricane's 100th anniversary in 2000, the 1900 Storm Committee was established and began meeting in January 1998. The committee and then-Mayor of Galveston, Roger Quiroga, planned several public events in remembrance of the storm, including theatrical plays, an educational fundraising luncheon, a candlelight memorial service, a 5K run, the rededication of a commemorative Clara Barton plaque, and the dedication of the Place of Remembrance Monument. [143] At the dedication of the Place of Remembrance Monument, the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word sang Queen of the Waves and placed 10 roses and 90 other flowers around the monument to commemorate the 10 nuns and 90 children who perished after the hurricane destroyed the St. Mary's Orphans Asylum. [144] Speakers at the candlelight memorial service included U. S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who was born in Galveston; Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration D. James Baker; and CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather, who gained fame for his coverage during Hurricane Carla in 1961. [145] The Daily News published a special 100th anniversary commemorative edition newspaper on September 3, 2000. [143]

The last reported survivor of the Galveston hurricane of 1900, Mrs. Maude Conic of Wharton, Texas, [146] died November 14, 2004, at the claimed age of 116, although the 1900 census and other records indicate she was about 10 years younger than that. [147]

Today, Galveston is home to Port of Galveston, the oldest port along the United States Gulf Coast to the west of New Orleans. [148] The city has three institutes of higher learning Galveston College, Texas A&M University at Galveston, and the University of Texas Medical Branch. [149] American National Insurance Company, a major insurance corporation, is based in Galveston. [150] Homes and other buildings that survived the hurricane have been preserved, and give much of the city a Victorian look. [149] The seawall, since extended to 10 mi (16 km), [134] is now an attraction itself, as hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions have been built along its length. [149]

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. [151] [152]

See also


  1. In local time, Central Standard Time (CST), the hurricane made landfall in Texas around 8:00 p.m. on September 8. However, government meteorological agencies such as NOAA use Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), [4] which is six hours ahead of CST. [5]
  2. All damage figures pertaining to the United States are in 1900 USD, unless otherwise noted
  3. All damage figures pertaining to Canada are in 1900 CAD, unless otherwise noted
  4. The Canadian dollar and United States dollar were roughly identical in value between January 1879 and August 1914. [6]
  5. Although that view was not universally held by all Texas residents, particularly those advocating other Texas seaports. "Galveston Island, with all its boasted accumulation of people, habitations, wealth, trade and commerce, is but a waif of the ocean, a locality but of yesterday ... liable, at any moment, and certain, at no distant day, of being engulfed and submerged by the self-same power that gave it form. Neither is it possible for all the skillful devices of mortal man to protect this doomed place against the impending danger; the terrible power of a hurricane cannot be ... resisted. I should as soon think of founding a city on an iceberg." - D. E. E. Braman (1857). [26]

Related Research Articles

Hurricane Alicia Category 3 Atlantic hurricane in 1983

Hurricane Alicia was a small but powerful tropical cyclone that caused significant destruction in the Greater Houston area of Southeast Texas in August 1983. Although Alicia was a relatively small hurricane, its track over the rapidly growing metropolitan area contributed to its $3 billion damage toll, making it the costliest Atlantic hurricane at the time. Alicia spawned from a disturbance that originated from the tail-end of a cold front over the northern Gulf of Mexico in mid-August 1983. The cyclone was named on August 14 when it became a tropical storm, and the combination of weak steering currents and a conducive environment allowed Alicia to quickly intensify as it drifted slowly westward. On August 17, Alicia became a hurricane and continued to strengthen, topping out as a Category 3 major hurricane as it made landfall on the southwestern end of Galveston Island, Texas. Alicia's eye passed just west of Downtown Houston as the system accelerated northwestwards across East Texas; Alicia eventually weakened into a remnant area of low pressure over Oklahoma on August 20 before they were last noted on August 21 over eastern Nebraska.

1943 Surprise Hurricane Category 2 Atlantic hurricane in 1943

The 1943 Surprise hurricane was the first hurricane to be entered by a reconnaissance aircraft. The first tracked tropical cyclone of the 1943 Atlantic hurricane season, this system developed as a tropical storm while situated over the northeastern Gulf of Mexico on July 25. The storm gradually strengthened while tracking westward and reached hurricane status late on July 26. Thereafter, the hurricane curved slightly west-northwestward and continued intensifying. Early on July 27, it became a Category 2 hurricane on the modern-day Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale and peaked with winds of 105 mph (165 km/h). The system maintained this intensity until landfall on the Bolivar Peninsula in Texas late on July 27. After moving inland, the storm initially weakened rapidly, but remained a tropical cyclone until dissipating over north-central Texas on July 29.

Hurricane Carla Category 5 Atlantic hurricane in 1961

Hurricane Carla ranks as the most intense U.S. tropical cyclone landfall on the Hurricane Severity Index. The third named storm and first Category 5 hurricane of the 1961 Atlantic hurricane season, Carla developed from an area of squally weather in the southwestern Caribbean Sea on September 3. Initially a tropical depression, it strengthened slowly while heading northwestward, and by September 5, the system was upgraded to Tropical Storm Carla. About 24 hours later, Carla was upgraded to a hurricane. Shortly thereafter, the storm curved northward while approaching the Yucatán Channel. Late on September 7, Carla entered the Gulf of Mexico while passing just northeast of the Yucatán Peninsula. By early on the following day, the storm became a major hurricane after reaching Category 3 intensity. Resuming its northwestward course, Carla continued intensification and on September 11, it was upgraded to a Category 5 hurricane. Later that day, Carla weakened slightly, but was still a large and intense hurricane when the storm made landfall near Port O'Connor, Texas. It weakened quickly inland and was reduced to a tropical storm on September 12. Heading generally northward, Carla transitioned into an extratropical cyclone on September 13, while centered over southern Oklahoma. Rapidly moving northeastward, Carla's remnants reached the Labrador Sea, Canada and dissipated on September 17, 1961.

1943 Atlantic hurricane season hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean

The 1943 Atlantic hurricane season marked the first deliberate reconnaissance aircraft flights into tropical cyclones. The season officially lasted from June 16 to October 31, which was, at the time, considered the most likely period for tropical cyclone formation in the Atlantic Ocean. A total of ten storms from 1943 are listed in the Atlantic hurricane database, and an eleventh system that affected Florida and Georgia has been identified as a probable tropical depression. The first system of the year, dubbed the "Surprise hurricane", caused severe damage throughout Texas and Louisiana in June, partially because information about its approach was censored in the fray of World War II; the storm caused 19 deaths and $17 million in damage. A major hurricane in mid-August produced hurricane-force winds in Bermuda, and several other tropical cyclones throughout the year resulted in strong winds there. In September, a hurricane impacted the western Gulf Coast of the United States, then a tropical storm struck the Mid-Atlantic. The two storms resulted in $419,000 and $20,000 in damage, respectively; one death was attributed to the latter system. In mid-October, a strong hurricane resulted in flooding and damage to crops throughout the Caribbean; after becoming post-tropical, it contributed to moderate impacts across Nova Scotia.

1909 Atlantic hurricane season hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean

The 1909 Atlantic hurricane season was an average Atlantic hurricane season. The season produced eleven tropical cyclones, of which all eleven became tropical storms; six became hurricanes, and four of those strengthened into major hurricanes. The season's first storm developed on June 15 while the last storm transitioned into an extratropical cyclone on November 14. The most notable storm during the season formed in late August, while east of the Lesser Antilles. The hurricane devastated the Lesser Antilles, the Greater Antilles, and Mexico, leaving around 4,000 fatalities and more than $50 million (1909 USD) in damage.

1919 Florida Keys hurricane Category 4 Atlantic hurricane in 1919

The 1919 Florida Keys hurricane was a massive and damaging tropical cyclone that swept across areas of the northern Caribbean Sea and the United States Gulf Coast in September 1919. Remaining an intense Atlantic hurricane throughout much of its existence, the storm's slow-movement and sheer size prolonged and enlarged the scope of the hurricane's effects, making it one of the deadliest hurricanes in United States history. Impacts were largely concentrated around the Florida Keys and South Texas areas, though lesser but nonetheless significant effects were felt in Cuba and other areas of the United States Gulf Coast.

1944 Cuba–Florida hurricane Category 3 Atlantic hurricane in 1944

The 1944 Cuba–Florida hurricane was a large Category 4 tropical cyclone that swept across the western Caribbean Sea and Southeastern United States in October 1944. The destructive hurricane caused over $100 million in damage and 318 deaths, with the majority of fatalities occurring in Cuba and the Cayman Islands–a normalization of landfalling storms based on 2018 demographics suggested that an equivalent storm in 2018 would rank among the costliest U.S. hurricanes with a damage toll approaching that of Hurricane Sandy.

Hurricane Audrey Category 4 Atlantic hurricane in 1957

Hurricane Audrey was one of the deadliest tropical cyclones in U.S. history, as well as the strongest June hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic basin, tied with Hurricane Alex in 2010. The rapidly developing storm struck southwestern Louisiana as a powerful Category 3 hurricane, destroying coastal communities with a powerful storm surge that penetrated as far as 20 mi (32 km) inland. The first named storm and hurricane of the annual hurricane season, it formed on June 24 from a tropical wave which moved into the Bay of Campeche. Situated within ideal conditions for tropical development, Audrey quickly strengthened, reaching hurricane status a day afterwards. Moving northwards, it continued to strengthen and accelerate as it approached the United States Gulf Coast. On June 27, the hurricane reached peak sustained winds of 125 mph (205 km/h), making it a major hurricane. At the time, Audrey had a minimum barometric pressure of 946 mbar. The hurricane made landfall at the same intensity between the mouth of the Sabine River and Cameron, Louisiana later that day, causing unprecedented destruction across the region. Once inland, Audrey weakened and turned extratropical over West Virginia on June 29.

1915 Galveston hurricane Category 4 Atlantic hurricane in 1915

The 1915 Galveston hurricane was a deadly hurricane that struck Leeward Islands, Hispaniola, Cuba and Texas, in mid August of the 1915 Atlantic hurricane season. Striking Galveston, Texas, 15 years after the 1900 Galveston Hurricane, its 21-ft (6.4-m) waves were slowed by the new Galveston Seawall but changed the beach structure: on August 17, the entire 300-ft (91.5–m) beach was eroded to become an offshore sandbar, later returning partially, but never the same. The 1915 storm caused a great deal of destruction in its path, leaving 275-400 people dead and $50 million in damage.

Effects of Hurricane Ike in Texas

The effects of Hurricane Ike in Texas were crippling and long-lasting. Ike's effects included deaths, widespread damage, and impacts to the price and availability of oil and gas. Hurricane Ike also had a long-term impact on the U.S. economy. Making landfall over Galveston, at 2:10 a.m. CDT on September 13, 2008, Category 2 Hurricane Ike caused extensive damage in Texas, with sustained winds of 110 mph (175 km/h), a 22 ft storm surge, and widespread coastal flooding.

1941 Texas hurricane Category 3 Atlantic hurricane in 1941

The 1941 Texas hurricane, the second storm of the 1941 Atlantic hurricane season, was a large and intense tropical cyclone that struck coastal Texas as a major hurricane in September 1941, causing relatively severe damage. The storm is estimated to have formed in the eastern Gulf of Mexico on September 16. After attaining hurricane strength, it completed a clockwise loop and turned northwestward. The hurricane continued to strengthen until it made landfall near East Matagorda Bay, Texas, with winds of 125 miles per hour (201 km/h), but rapidly weakened as it headed inland. Damage from the storm amounted to about $6.5 million, and crops throughout the region were largely destroyed. The city of Houston suffered extensive damage as the storm passed to the east. The hurricane disrupted activities related to the Louisiana Maneuvers. Later, the system became extratropical and passed over Lake Huron, killing three people in Toronto. Overall, seven people lost their lives due to the cyclone.

1875 Atlantic hurricane season hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean

The 1875 Atlantic hurricane season featured three landfalling tropical cyclones. However, in the absence of modern satellite and other remote-sensing technologies, only storms that affected populated land areas or encountered ships at sea were recorded, so the actual total could be higher. An undercount bias of zero to six tropical cyclones per year between 1851 and 1885 has been estimated. There were five recorded hurricanes and one major hurricane – Category 3 or higher on the modern-day Saffir–Simpson scale.

1949 Texas hurricane Category 4 Atlantic and Pacific hurricane in 1949

The 1949 Texas hurricane was a tropical cyclone of the 1949 Atlantic hurricane season. Forming in the Pacific Ocean on September 27, the storm crossed into the Gulf of Mexico—one of only a handful of known storms to do so—and began to intensify. It ultimately peaked with winds corresponding to high-end Category 2 status on the modern-day Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale and made landfall near Freeport, Texas, on the morning of October 4. It rapidly weakened after moving inland and dissipated several days later. Damage from the storm was moderate, although the hurricane temporarily cut off the city of Galveston from the mainland. Rice crops suffered extensive damage, with losses estimated at up to $10 million. Two people died due to the hurricane.

Hurricane Debra (1959) Category 1 Atlantic hurricane in 1959

Hurricane Debra was a destructive tropical cyclone that developed during the 1959 Atlantic hurricane season. The fifth tropical storm and third hurricane of the season, Debra originated from the interaction of a cold-core low and a tropical wave on July 15. The system was designated a tropical depression on July 23 when it was south of Louisiana and meandered westward while it swiftly intensified into a tropical storm along the Gulf Coast of the United States. A turn towards the northwest became evident as it attained Category 1 hurricane status on the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale the following day while it organized into a developed storm. As the hurricane curved northward at a slow forward speed, strength was maintained as it approached the coast of Texas as a minimal hurricane. It came ashore during the evening of July 24 local time between Freeport and Galveston, Texas. It rapidly weakened into a tropical storm and later a depression as it moved inland, and dissipated on July 28 while it turned northwestward. The remnant moisture later sparked upper-level thunderstorms in late July and early August.

1909 Velasco hurricane Category 3 Atlantic hurricane in 1909

The 1909 Velasco hurricane was an intense tropical cyclone that devastated areas of the Texas coast in July of the 1909 Atlantic hurricane season. The fourth tropical storm, second hurricane, and first major hurricane of the season, it formed from an area of disturbed weather east of the Leeward Islands on July 13, 1909. Remaining weak for much of its early existence, the system began to intensify after nearing Jamaica. Curving towards the northwest, it reached hurricane strength on July 18 near the western tip of Cuba. Intensification stalled as it moved westwards across the Gulf of Mexico, but resumed as the hurricane approached the Texas coast. The storm intensified to a major hurricane on July 21 and subsequently reached its peak intensity with winds of 115 mph (185 km/h) prior to making landfall near Velasco, Texas. Once over land, the system began to quickly weaken, and dissipated near the Rio Grande on July 22.

The 1842 Atlantic hurricane season featured several maritime catastrophes in the Gulf of Mexico and along the U.S. East Coast, and produced one of the only known tropical cyclones to directly affect the Iberian Peninsula. As the season falls outside the scope of the Atlantic hurricane database, records of most storms in 1842 are scarce, and only approximate tracks are known. The first documented storm of the season battered the coast of North Carolina in mid-July, wrecking dozens of ships and destroying homes along the Outer Banks. A little over a month later, another storm impacted the same region and caused several more shipwrecks that killed at least 12 men. This storm later doused the Mid-Atlantic states with flooding rains. In early September, a powerful storm known as "Antje's Hurricane"—named after a ship that it dismasted—tracked generally westward after first being spotted over the Leeward Islands. After yielding widespread destruction across the Bahamas, the storm traversed the Florida Straits, causing severe damage in both northern Cuba and the lower Florida Keys. Many ships and their crews were lost to the storm as it crossed the Gulf of Mexico; it finally struck northern Mexico on September 8.

1837 Racers hurricane Category 3 Atlantic hurricane in 1837

Racer's hurricane was a destructive tropical cyclone that had severe effects on northeastern Mexico and the Gulf Coast of the United States in early October 1837. It takes its name from the Royal Navy ship Racer, which sustained some damage when it encountered the hurricane in the northwestern Caribbean Sea. The storm first affected Jamaica with flooding rainfall and strong winds on September 26 and 27, before entering the Gulf of Mexico by October 1. As the hurricane approached northern Tamaulipas and southern Texas, it slowed to a crawl and turned sharply eastward. The storm battered the Gulf Coast from Texas to the Florida Panhandle between October 3 and 7, and after crossing the Southeastern United States, it emerged into the Atlantic shipping lanes off the Carolinas. For most of the storm's duration, the strongest winds and heaviest rains were confined to the northern side of its track.


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Further reading