A Hurricane Hits The Gulf Of Mexico

On September 8, 1900, hurricane winds of at least 120 miles per hour ripped across the Texas coastline of the Gulf of Mexico, killing over 5000 people and decimating the city of Galveston.

During the eighteen hour storm, tidal waves swept through sea-level streets, destroying homes and buildings and wiping out electricity, roads, and communication systems. As news of the disaster spread, supplies, including tents for the nearly 8000 homeless, poured into Galveston from across the nation.

Rebuilding Galveston involved construction of a reinforced concrete seawall and raising the city above sea level. Eight miles long and seventeen feet high, the massive seawall repells Gulf winds and water. Equally impressive, sand from the Gulf of Mexico was used to lift the city far above its previous grade. Ultimately, portions of Galveston lay fifteen feet above former levels. These fortifications continue to help protect the city from hurricane damage.

Galvestonians also transformed the structure of their city government. During reconstruction, a five-man commission replaced the mayor and board of aldermen. Initially viewed as an emergency measure, the commission form of government was so efficient that Galveston permanently adopted the scheme. The "Galveston Plan" was widely imitated by other cities and became a benchmark of early twentieth-century municipal reform.

The Hurricane of 1900 made landfall on the city of Galveston, Texas on September 8, 1900. It had estimated winds of 135 miles per hour (217 km/h) at landfall, making it a Category 4 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale.

The hurricane caused great loss of life with the estimated death toll between 6,000 and 12,000 individuals; the number most cited in official reports is 8,000, giving the storm the third-highest number of casualties of any Atlantic hurricane, after the Great Hurricane of 1780 and 1998’s Hurricane Mitch. The Galveston Hurricane of 1900 is to date the deadliest natural disaster ever to strike the United States. By contrast, the second-deadliest storm to strike the United States, the 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane, caused approximately 2,500 deaths, and the deadliest storm of recent times, Hurricane Katrina, claimed the lives of approximately 1,800 people.

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, the Great Galveston Hurricane, and, especially in older documents, the Galveston Flood. It is often referred to by Galveston locals as The Great Storm or The 1900 Storm.

Thunder, lightning, the fury of the wind until the maddened waters leap from the depths, rush wildly over the city, carrying death before it, leaving a scene of despair after it—all of which forms an exhibition entirely new in the annals of the European or American stage. ”

— History of Coney Island (New York: Burroughs & Co., 1904.)