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THE GALVESTON STORM OF 1900—
THE DEADLIEST DISASTER IN AMERICAN HISTORY

The dawn of the 20th century ushered in many dramatic changes in the United States. The Wright Brothers conducted flight experiments at Kittyhawk, North Carolina. The U.S. population was 76 million in 1900 compared to 270 million in the year 2000. And, the U.S. government took in $567 million in 1900. At the end of the 20th century it took in $1.7 trillion.

There were many memorable events in the United States throughout the 20th century. The Galveston, Texas, hurricane of 1900 remains the worst disaster in American history. More than 8,000 people perished September 8, 1900 when the category 4 hurricane barreled into Galveston, where many people were on vacation.

In 1900 there were no weather satellites and no Doppler radar. However, warnings were issue by the U.S. Weather Bureau, the predecessor of NOAA's National Weather Service. People were advised to seek higher ground. Many didn't heed the warnings preferring instead to watch the huge waves.

On September 8, the hurricane slammed into Galveston almost head on. Waves were higher than 15 feet and winds howled at 130 miles per hour. By the time the storm passed, more than 8,000 people were dead, countless were injured and half of the island's homes had been swept away.

Read the report of Isaac Cline, the local forecast official with the U.S. Weather Bureau, who recounts the events of those days. He lost his wife when their home collapsed in the onslaught of the storm.

Can this happen today? It's possible. Even though there have been great technological advances in weather forecasting the past 100 years and the city has erected an 18-foot seawall, Galveston is not invincible to such powerful storms. Since many people in the United States have moved closer to the shore, trying to evacuate the population of Galveston could take days.

NOAA remembers the storm of 1900 and those who lost their lives.

Historic Photos from NOAA's Photo Library Online

These photos were taken from the book "The Complete Story of the Galveston Horror," edited by John Coutler, which was published in 1900 by J. H. Moore & Company of Chicago. These photos are in the public domain. Please credit "NOAA."

Galveston image
Aftermath

Damage
Damage

The Dead
The Dead

Ruined Homes
Ruined Homes

Flood Damage
Flood Damage

Flood Ruin
Flood Ruin

Destruction
Destruction

Tracking Chart
Tracking Chart

Contact Information

To arrange media interviews contact the following:

Chris Vaccaro, NOAA National Weather Service headquarters in Silver Spring, Md., at (301) 713-0622 or Ron Trumbla, NOAA National Weather Service Southern Region headquarters, at (817) 978-1111 ext. 140

To comment on this Web site and also arrange media interviews contact Greg Hernandez, NOAA public affairs Washington, D.C., (202) 482-3091

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Publication of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Last Updated: 4/18/06

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