Hurricane Histories goes back over one hundred years to discuss the 1900 Galveston Hurricane. First, a little history about Galveston, Texas. Galveston was first founded in 1839 and had a booming population. In just ten years, the population had grown from 29,000 people to 37,000 people by 1900. It was a very large port in Texas and the fourth-largest municipality.
This part of Texas was no stranger to storms. There had been numerous storms affecting the surrounding cities including Indianola, Texas. Indianola was struck twice by what researchers believed were hurricanes. It first happened in 1875, and the residents decided to rebuild their city. 10 years later, it happens again, and instead of rebuilding, the community decided to move. In light of these events, Galveston tried to make preparations to deal with hurricanes and even proposed a seawall, which was dismissed.
It is believed, that the 1900 Galveston Hurricane formed as a tropical wave off the coast of Africa. At this time, there were very limited observations when it came to tracking hurricanes. The primary tool was boats and ships. It is believed the system developed into a tropical storm on Aug. 27 but was still 1,000 miles east of the Windward Islands. After about four days, it enters the Caribbean Sea and was still relatively weak. On Sept.1 an observatory in Cuba determined that the system was in the formative stages of becoming a hurricane.
Before making landfall in Texas, it made three other landfalls in the Caribbean. The first was in the Dominican Republic on Sept. 2. The system then crossed the island of Hispaniola and exited near Saint-Marc, Haiti. Now, the system was on the road to Cuba and made landfall on Sept. 3 near Santiago de Cuba.
After making landfall in Cuba, the Cuban government stated to the United States Weather Bureau that a tropical system was heading to Texas. The US Weather Bureau did not agree with their analysis. Evidently, there was a policy in place to block telegraphs from Cuba due to tension preceding the Spanish-American War. However, it is important to note Cuba was the most advanced country in terms of meteorological observations at this time.
The United States Weather Bureau agreed there was a system in the Gulf of Mexico, but believed it was headed to Florida.
High pressure over Florida pushed the system to the northwest. While in the Gulf it is now believed to reach hurricane status. On Sept. 6, Louisiana, a ship, reported winds of 100 mph or Category 2 status. One day later, winds were now believed to be Category 4 status and sustained at 145 mph. At this point, the US Weather Bureau agreed it was headed to Texas, but it would not make landfall as a Category 4, they were wrong again.
The hurricane made landfall in Galveston at about 9 p.m. on Sept. 8. Once over land, the tropical system quickly weakened and moved to the northeast. The storm dissipated on Sept. 15.
With roughly a population of 37,000 people, it is estimated anywhere from 6,000 to 12,000 people were killed. The highest point on the island was 8.7 feet and the storm surge from this hurricane was 15 feet. On top of that, nine inches of rain fell as a system made landfall, and winds were reported about 100 mph. The hurricane left one-third of the population homeless and generated $17 million in damage which in today’s dollars is about $585 million.