1900 storm that hit Galveston was worst ever
The Great Storm of 1900 killed at least 6,000 people and left 10,000 more homeless — and shaped the future of weather forecasting.
The Associated Press
HOUSTON — The storm came without a name — without warning — and shaped the future of weather forecasting.
It's known as The Great Storm of 1900, and it was the worst natural disaster to hit the United States.
At least 6,000 people on the 30-mile-by-3-mile strip of sand along the Southeast Texas coastline were killed, one-sixth of Galveston's population. An additional 10,000 were left homeless. More than 3,600 buildings were destroyed by a 16-foot storm surge fueled by 150 mph winds.
Bonnie Rice, 74, a retired caterer, has lived on Galveston Island all her life.
"My grandmother's family went in two boats to safety; one made it, the other didn't," she said Friday. "My grandfather's family lived down the island, and they tied themselves down to two trees. One blew away, the other didn't."
A 17-foot seawall was built after the Great Storm. The nearly 11-mile ribbon of granite has done its job so far, even when faced with other storms: Carla, Alicia, Claudette, Rita.
National weather officials, however, weren't willing to take the chance that it would spare Galveston the wrath of Ike.
Not all of the island is behind the sea wall, said Gene Hafele, the region's chief meteorologist. He noted that, while most residents have lived through dozens of hurricanes, most have never seen a storm surge like the one expected to wash over Galveston this time.
That concern prompted the local office of the National Weather Service to issue the rare warning that folks in some areas may "face certain death," if they don't evacuate.
"What have they ever experienced?" Hafele asked. "They hear about storm surge, but probably 1 percent of the people in the area have ever experienced anything like this."
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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