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Galveston Hurricane

William McKinley

Galveston Hurricane: William McKinley was the 25th American President who served in office from March 4, 1897 to September 14, 1901. One of the important events during his presidency was the devastation of the 1900 Galveston Hurricane in Texas.

Definition and Summary of the Galveston Hurricane
Summary and definition:
The Galveston Hurricane hit on Saturday September 8, 1900, in the city of Galveston in Texas. The Galveston hurricane had estimated winds of 145 miles per hour and caused the loss of many thousands of lives and the destruction of millions of dollars worth of property.

The devastating hurricane was the deadliest in the history of the United States and went on to ravage other parts of Central and Western Texas.

The 1900 Galveston Hurricane for kids: The City
The city of Galveston, Texas in the late 1800's was a flourishing town with a population of 36,000 residents, a center of trade and the biggest city in the state of Texas. Galveston was built on a low, flat island in a bay along the along the Gulf of Mexico.

The 1900 Galveston Hurricane: Disaster in Texas
The devastating hurricane brought with it a storm surge of over 15 feet which washed over the entire island. A sea wall had never been built so there was no protection from the destruction of the hurricane and over 3,600 homes were destroyed. It is estimated that 20% (1 in 5) of the population, nearly 8000 people, were killed in the deadly storm. So many people were killed by the Galveston Hurricane that proper burials were impossible and the bodies were piled into carts and buried at sea.

The 1900 Galveston Hurricane for kids: Hurricane Ike
Just over 100 years after the tragedy on September 13, 2008, the eye of Hurricane Ike hit the east end of Galveston Island with another high storm surge. Hurricane Ike overtopped the Galveston Seawall for the first time since it was built in 1902 after the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900. 

Galveston Hurricane Facts for kids: The Path of the Hurricane
It began on August 27th as a tropical storm in the central Atlantic followed a path to the West Indies reaching Cuba on September 3rd and 4th. It intensified during September 5th and 6th when it reached hurricane status as it passed just west of Florida and it then moved towards the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the coast of Texas.

Facts about Galveston Hurricane
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on Galveston Hurricane.

Dr. Isaac M. Cline, the meteorologist in charge of the local Weather Bureau, lived on Galveston Island sent a telegram to Washington, DC, predicting that a large part of the city was going to be flooded and would cause a major loss of life.

Dr. Cline rode a horse-drawn buggy to warn people to move to safer, higher ground. Forty-eight people took shelter in Dr. Cline's house but to no avail. 32 of the 48 people drowned in the storm surge, including the wife of Dr. Cline.

In the short space of just 4 hours the entire site of the city was covered by water destroying homes, businesses, warehouses, stores, public buildings and churches. The gale lasted for a total of 8 hours

Railroad tracks, telegraphs, telephone lines and bridges were also torn down and debris was hurled around the city making it almost impossible for people to pass.

The people were absolutely terrified. A Black darkness fell on the city and the howls of the winds of the hurricane, the crashing of buildings and the screams and the cries of people filled the air.

People watched in helpless horror as friends and family, including children, drowned in front of their eyes.

After the devastation, there was a delay in relief workers reaching the area - transportation by train was not possible due to the destruction of the railroad tracks.

To the horror of the residents there were many instances of looting following the disaster and government troops were called in. Looters found with stolen items in their possession were lined them up against a brick wall and shot without ceremony.

Thousands of dead animals and people lay dead in the streets and in the shattered wreckage of their homes. Decomposition set in giving rise to an unbearable stench. The ground was water-logged making burials difficult. Of all the fatalities only 500 people were buried in the city, many were buried on the beach, the majority of corpses were cremated or buried at sea.

Literally thousands of bodies were thrown into carts, loaded on to barges, taken a few miles out to sea where the corpses were weighted and thrown into the water for a burial at sea.

The cremations were also conducted without ceremony. The bodies were piled into heaps consisting of 20 - 40 corpses, saturated with kerosene and set on fire.

The burials at sea and the unceremonious cremations were the only options.  There there was a genuine fear that disease and pestilence would kill the remaining survivors of the hurricane.

Refugees fled to Houston, Texas and Texas City where they were fed and housed by people of the cities or provided with Tents. A relief fund was set up and donations were received from all over the United States and other countries of the world.

Many eye witness reported that the town was irreparably wrecked and beyond repair - 75% of the buildings had been completely destroyed. The people proved them all wrong.

Provisions, clothing, disinfectants and medicines were sent to Galveston and the clean-up and re-building process began

It was initially estimated that $2.5 million dollars would be needed for the relief work - the cost came to over $20 million dollars in 1900 - equivalent to billions in modern terms. It was the second costliest hurricane in US history, second only to Katrina.

Hurricane Katrina in 2005 claimed 1,836 lives and cost $113.4 billion dollars. Ike in 2008 cost $ 29.5 billion dollars.

In April 1901, Galveston introduced the commission system of government  replacing the mayor and city council. a major step in the Progressive Movement

The Galveston Hurricane in Texas remains the deadliest hurricane in United States history. In April 1901, Galveston introduced the commission system of government  replacing the mayor and city council.

Another terrible natural disaster would America in 1906 - the San Francisco Earthquake

US American History
1881-1913: Maturation Era

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