Galveston Tidal Wave and Flood Part 1
About the Galveston Tidal Wave and flood in Texas, the history of the disaster and destruction in 1900.
THE GALVESTON TIDAL WAVE
For 50 years Galveston, Tex., had won countless battles with the sea. Then, right after one Labor Day, nature stopped fooling around. Hurricane-swept gulf waters sent million-ton waves hurtling shoreward. By midnight Galveston was a nightmare of devastation.
When: September 8, 1900.
Where: Galveston, Tex.
The Loss: 6,000 people died. Property damage exceeded $17 million.
The Disaster: At 10 A.M. on that fateful Saturday morning, 30,000 blase Galvestonians went through the motions of business-as-usual. From an overcast sky a drizzling rain fell. Undaunted, late vacationers buttoned their coats to lean into the rising wind and stinging rain as they watched an angry seething surf. The weather-station barometer had fallen to 29" of mercury. Sailors aboard ships in the harbor battened down hatches and reinforced anchor and mooring lines.
By lunchtime barometers were registering 28.5". Surf watchers moved back from the tormented Gulf as wave after angry wave broke higher and higher over the jetties. Rainfall increased in intensity. The skies became darker and the damp cold of 20-mph winds penetrated the watchers' clothing, forcing them to seek shelter.
This scene had repeated itself many times, less ferociously, from 1836 when Michael B. Menard began the 1st development on Galveston Island, a narrow sandbar 25 mi. long by 2 mi. wide. Natives were familiar with seasonal storms and paid them little heed. But as Saturday wore on to 3 P.M. winds had increased to gale velocity. Joseph and Isaac Cline, weather-bureau men, knew this was no ordinary storm.
Streets in Galveston were awash with seawater. Increasingly high waves battered warehouses a block or more inland from the Gulf. Joseph Cline climbed gingerly to the top of the Levi Building. His weather instruments, a rain gauge and anemometer, had gone with the wind. He clutched a safety railing for support and looked down from his high perch to note that half of Galveston was under water.
Richard Spillane, editor of the Galveston Tribune, later recalled: "To go out on the streets was to court death. Cisterns, portions of buildings, telegraph poles, and walls were falling. The noise of the wind and crashing of buildings was terrifying in the extreme. The people were like rats in a trap."
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