1915 Galveston hurricane

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1915 Galveston Hurricane
Category 4 major hurricane (SSHWS/NWS)
Flooding in Galveston after the hurricane.
FormedAugust 5, 1915 (1915-08-05)
DissipatedAugust 23, 1915 (1915-08-24)
Highest winds 1-minute sustained:145 mph (230 km/h)
Lowest pressure940 mbar (hPa); 27.76 inHg
Fatalities400 direct
Damage$50 million (1915 USD)
Areas affected Lesser Antilles, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, Jamaica, Cuba, Cayman Islands, Yucatán Peninsula, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Eastern United States, Eastern Canada
Part of the 1915 Atlantic hurricane season

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 [1] were slowed by the new Galveston Seawall but changed the beach structure: on August 17, the entire 300-ft (91.5m) beach was eroded to become an offshore sandbar, later returning partially, but never the same. [1] The 1915 storm caused a great deal of destruction in its path, leaving 275-400 people dead and $50 million (1915 USD, $1.2 billion 2017 USD) in damage. [1]

Leeward Islands group 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.

Hispaniola island in the Caribbean

Hispaniola is an island in the Caribbean island group known as the Greater Antilles. It is the second largest island in the Caribbean after Cuba, and the most populous island in the Caribbean; it is also the eleventh most populous island in the world.

Cuba Country in the Caribbean

Cuba, officially the Republic of Cuba, is a country comprising the island of Cuba as well as Isla de la Juventud and several minor archipelagos. Cuba is located in the northern Caribbean where the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean meet. It is east of the Yucatán Peninsula (Mexico), south of both the U.S. state of Florida and the Bahamas, west of Haiti and north of both Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. Havana is the largest city and capital; other major cities include Santiago de Cuba and Camagüey. The area of the Republic of Cuba is 110,860 square kilometers (42,800 sq mi). The island of Cuba is the largest island in Cuba and in the Caribbean, with an area of 105,006 square kilometers (40,543 sq mi), and the second-most populous after Hispaniola, with over 11 million inhabitants.


Meteorological history

Map plotting the track and the intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir-Simpson scale 1915 Galveston hurricane track.png
Map plotting the track and the intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir–Simpson scale

A Cape Verde hurricane, the system was first detected as a tropical storm moving westward on August 5. Then it was officially observed on August 10 as a Category 1 hurricane. By that time, the storm was centered north of Barbados. On August 11, the eye of the hurricane passed south of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. A weather station in San Juan recorded a 29.60 inches of mercury (1,002 mb) pressure reading and winds up to 60 mph (97 km/h). The hurricane continued to move westward between 18 and 20 mph (29 and 32 km/h) where it brushed Haiti and made landfall in Jamaica. [2] A barometric pressure reading of 29.68 inHg (1,005 mb) was reported in Jamaica. The 1915 hurricane then turned slightly west-northwest, brushing Cuba as it went along. Unfazed by the landfall on Jamaica, the hurricane rapidly intensified and was located near Isle of Pines, Cuba on August 14 with 145 mph (233 km/h) winds. On the 15th, the hurricane was in the central Gulf of Mexico still moving in a northwesterly direction. On August 16, the center of the storm was approaching the east coast of Texas, where the storm weakened slightly but was still a Category 4 storm. [3] On the 17th, the hurricane made landfall southwest of Galveston, Texas. Atmospheric pressure at landfall was at 27.76 inHg (940 mb) and 135 mph (217 km/h) winds. After leaving Galveston, the weakening storm took a turn to the northeast and passed Houston as a Category 1 hurricane before dropping to tropical storm status later that day. On August 20, the dying storm passed over Missouri and the Ohio Valley before finally becoming extratropical on August 23.

Cape Verde hurricane

A Cape Verde hurricane, or Cabo Verde hurricane is an Atlantic hurricane that originates at low-latitude in the deep tropics from a tropical wave that has passed over or near the Cape Verde islands after exiting the coast of West Africa. The average hurricane season has about two Cape Verde hurricanes, which are often the largest and most intense storms of the season due to having plenty of warm open ocean over which to develop before encountering land or other factors prompting weakening. A good portion of Cape Verde storms are large, and some, such as Hurricane Ivan and Hurricane Irma, have set various records. Most of the longest-lived tropical cyclones in the Atlantic basin are Cape Verde hurricanes. While many move harmlessly out to sea, some move across the Caribbean sea and into the Gulf of Mexico, becoming damaging storms for Caribbean nations, Central America, Mexico, Bermuda, the United States, and occasionally even Canada. Research projects since the 1970s have been launched to understand the formation of these storms.

Barbados country in the Caribbean

Barbados is an island country in the Lesser Antilles of the West Indies, in the Caribbean region of North America. It is 34 kilometres in length and up to 23 km (14 mi) in width, covering an area of 432 km2 (167 sq mi). It is situated in the western area of the North Atlantic and 100 km (62 mi) east of the Windward Islands and the Caribbean Sea; therein, Barbados is east of the Windwards, part of the Lesser Antilles, roughly at 13°N of the equator. It is about 168 km (104 mi) east of both the countries of Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and 400 km (250 mi) north-east of Trinidad and Tobago. Barbados is outside the principal Atlantic hurricane belt. Its capital and largest city is Bridgetown.

Virgin Islands Island group of the Caribbean Leeward Islands

The Virgin Islands are geologically and biogeographically the easternmost part of the Greater Antilles, the northern islands belonging to the Puerto Rican Bank and St. Croix being a displaced part of the same geologic structure. Politically, the British Virgin Islands have been governed as the western island group of the Leeward Islands, which are the northern part of the Lesser Antilles, and form the border between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The archipelago is separated from the true Lesser Antilles by the Anegada Passage and from the main island of Puerto Rico by the Virgin Passage.


Waves on seawall, 4:30-5:00 p.m., August 16, 1915. Waves on Seawall 430-500 pm.jpg
Waves on seawall, 4:30–5:00 p.m., August 16, 1915.

Forecasters began to issue advisories to weather stations in the United States when the storm was detected on August 5. Forecasters then began to issue warnings to Haiti and Cuba on August 11. Evacuation reports in both Cuba and Haiti, however, are unavailable. After the storm hit Jamaica, forecasters predicted the storm might hit southern and western Cuba. Between August 12 and 13, forecasters began to issue tropical storm warnings to the Florida Keys and Miami, Florida ahead of the storm due to shipping interests. [2] By August 13, the hurricane trekked westward as forecast. At 5 PM (EST), the tropical storm warnings were then changed to hurricane warnings which extended to the Florida Panhandle. On the 14th, however, the hurricane did not recurve north and warnings for Miami and later the Florida Keys were dropped, as the storm instead continued west-northwest. Because the 1915 hurricane was large (exact size unknown), forecasters began to issue tropical storm warnings from coastal Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle. In addition, warnings were issued in Brownsville, Texas. Since it was clear that the hurricane would make landfall in Texas, the warnings were changed for the entire Texas coastline. After the hurricane made landfall, officials continued to issue warnings until the storm dissipated on August 23. [2]

Haiti country in the Caribbean

Haiti, officially the Republic of Haiti and formerly called Hayti, is a country located on the island of Hispaniola, east of Cuba in the Greater Antilles archipelago of the Caribbean Sea. It occupies the western three-eighths of the island, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. Haiti is 27,750 square kilometres (10,714 sq mi) in size and has an estimated 10.8 million people, making it the most populous country in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the second-most populous country in the Caribbean as a whole.

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.

Florida Keys Coral cay archipelago in Florida, United States of America

The Florida Keys are a coral cay archipelago located off the southern coast of Florida, forming the southernmost portion of the continental United States. They begin at the southeastern coast of the Florida peninsula, about 15 miles (24 km) south of Miami, and extend in a gentle arc south-southwest and then westward to Key West, the westernmost of the inhabited islands, and on to the uninhabited Dry Tortugas. The islands lie along the Florida Straits, dividing the Atlantic Ocean to the east from the Gulf of Mexico to the northwest, and defining one edge of Florida Bay. At the nearest point, the southern part of Key West is just 90 miles (140 km) from Cuba. The Florida Keys are between about 23.5 and 25.5 degrees North latitude.


Costliest U.S. Atlantic hurricanes 1900–2017
Direct economic losses, normalized to societal conditions in 2018 [4]
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

The 1915 Hurricane took a path similar to the 1900 Galveston Hurricane, but it affected a large area as it brought strong winds and heavy rains to the Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and Cuba. When the hurricane made landfall in Galveston, it brought heavy rains and strong winds, leaving $921 million (2005 USD) in damage. However, unlike the 1900 Galveston Hurricane, only 11 people were killed in the Galveston town area, due to the Galveston Seawall, built after the 1900 storm.

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.

United States dollar Currency of the United States of America

The United States dollar is the official currency of the United States and its territories per the United States Constitution since 1792. In practice, the dollar is divided into 100 smaller cent (¢) units, but is occasionally divided into 1000 mills (₥) for accounting. The circulating paper money consists of Federal Reserve Notes that are denominated in United States dollars.

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.

Caribbean Sea

While crossing the Caribbean, the hurricane left moderate damage. In Martinique, the hurricane flooded docks and wrecked small boats, but damage overall was minimal. Damage in the Leeward Islands and Puerto Rico was also limited to small boats and docks. No monetary value is available. In Jamaica and Haiti, there was serious crop damage but according to reports, there were no deaths. [2] In Cuba, however, the damage was severe, as the hurricane devastated the town of Cape San Antonio and destroyed a lighthouse and all of the weather equipment belonging to the Weather Bureau. Offshore, the hurricane damaged or sank two schooners, but there was no loss of life. Because of lack of advanced reporting, the death toll in Cuba is unknown. [2]

Martinique Overseas region and department in France

Martinique is an insular region of France located in the Lesser Antilles of the West Indies in the eastern Caribbean Sea, with a land area of 1,128 square kilometres (436 sq mi) and a population of 376,480 inhabitants as of January 2016. Like Guadeloupe, it is an overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department. One of the Windward Islands, it is directly north of Saint Lucia, southeast of Greater Antilles, northwest of Barbados, and south of Dominica.

Cape San Antonio, Cuba

Cape San Antonio, is a cape which forms the western extremity of the Guanahacabibes Peninsula and the western extremity of Cuba. It extends into the Yucatán Channel, and is part of the municipality of Sandino, in Pinar del Río Province. According to the International Hydrographic Organization, it marks the division point between the Caribbean Sea to the south and Gulf of Mexico to the north.

National Weather Service United States weather agency

The National Weather Service (NWS) is an agency of the United States federal government that is tasked with providing weather forecasts, warnings of hazardous weather, and other weather-related products to organizations and the public for the purposes of protection, safety, and general information. It is a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) branch of the Department of Commerce, and is headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland, within the Washington metropolitan area. The agency was known as the United States Weather Bureau from 1890 until it adopted its current name in 1970.

Yucatán Channel and Gulf of Mexico

Although the hurricane did not make landfall in western Cuba, the Florida Keys or Yucatán Peninsula, the outer rainbands of the storm still produced tropical storm force winds and scattered downpours. In Key West, gale-force winds were reported, but there were no reports of damage. Offshore, numerous ships and boats caught out in the hurricane limped home with moderate damage. [2] In the Yucatán Channel, however, the hurricane sank a U.S. steamer Marowjine, bound from Belize. Despite the fact that the ship was equipped with radios, the ship sank, drowning all 96 passengers and crew. In the northern Gulf of Mexico, a schooner sank several miles south of Mobile, Alabama: there were three fatalities. Several miles east, off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, there were two more fatalities when a fishing boat ran aground. In the central Gulf of Mexico, another schooner was lost, but the crewmen survived. [2] In all, the hurricane left 101 people dead in the Gulf of Mexico and Yucatán Channel.

Yucatán Peninsula peninsula in North America

The Yucatán Peninsula, in southeastern Mexico, separates the Caribbean Sea from the Gulf of Mexico, with the northern coastline on the Yucatán Channel. The peninsula lies east of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, a northwestern geographic partition separating the region of Central America from the rest of North America. It is approximately 181,000 km2 (70,000 sq mi) in area, and is almost entirely composed of limestone.

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.

Yucatán Channel strait between Mexico and Cuba

The Yucatán Channel or Straits of Yucatán is a strait between Mexico and Cuba. It connects the Yucatán Basin of the Caribbean Sea with the Gulf of Mexico. It is just over 200 kilometres (120 mi) wide and nearly 2,800 metres (9,200 ft) deep at its deepest point near the coast of Cuba.


The outer bands of the 1915 hurricane brought heavy rains and gale-force winds to Louisiana. The damage in Louisiana was <$1 million (1915 USD), and it was limited to agriculture and marshes. [2] There were no reports of fatalities or injuries.


The 1915 Hurricane made landfall on the Texas coast as a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 135 mph (217 km/h). The areas in Texas hardest hit were Galveston and Houston. In Galveston, the death toll was only eleven due to a recently built seawall. Elsewhere there were 111 fatalities (42 in Galveston Island and 62 offshore), and 102 others were reported missing and assumed dead. Total damage was $56 million (1915 USD). [5]

In Galveston, the hurricane brought 120 mph (190 km/h) winds and tides 9–14 feet above normal and a storm surge of 16.2 feet (4.9 m). [1] [6] The storm surge of the hurricane partly damaged the seawall protecting Galveston, which resulted in severe flooding. At 39th street, the 4-masted schooner Crockett was picked up by the storm surge, dragging 2 anchors to snag the seawall, and the schooner was broken into pieces atop the seawall. However, the seawall held up, preventing a repeat of the 1900 Galveston Hurricane, but erosion behind damaged the pavement on top from 6th to 18th street. [1] In addition, the hurricane completely washed out 300 ft (91 m) of beach up to the seawall, [1] which became an offshore sandbar, but later returned partially, yet never the same.

August 16-21, 1915 precipitation caused by the hurricane Pcpn1915081621isohyet.png
August 16–21, 1915 precipitation caused by the hurricane

Elsewhere in the city, many businesses were flooded with 5–6 feet of water. In Fort Crockett, the hurricane destroyed or damaged many of the dune-protected forts and military equipment leaving $1 million (1915 USD) in damage. In all, 250-300 homes outside the seawall were destroyed, and there were only a few deaths due to advanced warnings. In all, there was $6 million (1915 USD) in damage and eleven deaths in the city of Galveston and 42 deaths elsewhere in Galveston Island. [2]

This hurricane damaged Port Bolivar, and its port was mostly not rebuilt. [7]

In Houston, the hurricane brought 80 mph (130 km/h) winds [1] and heavy rainfall that left $1 million (1915 USD) in damage, but there were no reports of fatalities or deaths in the city. The storm significantly damaged much of the cotton, corn, and rice harvests. Rainfall from the storm peaked at 19.83 inches (504 mm) at San Augustine, Texas. [8]

Rest of the United States

The dissipating remnants of the 1915 hurricane dumped heavy rains across the eastern Midwest and Ohio Valley states before fading out for good on August 23. The rains caused extensive flash flooding that left significant damage from Missouri to New York. Exact damage totals and reports of deaths or injuries are unknown. [2]


In Galveston, a series of fires broke out after the storm's passage, and relief aid was slow because the causeway that connected Galveston to mainland Texas was badly damaged. The cost of repairing the bridge was $500,000 dollars (1915 USD). The damage to the bridge and a key water main caused a significant water shortage that lasted until August 16. The damage to post offices and radio stations disrupted mail service and communication. [2]

See also

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