Sept. 8, 1900: When a hurricane changed history

HOUSTON - In 1900, Galveston was the largest and fastest growing city in Texas. Prospects were bright for the shining city by the sea.

The port was important and growing as both exports and imports were rising rapidly with the move westward in America. Houston, on the other hand, was a smaller city still trying to find the path to destiny.

The 1900 hurricane season had been unusually quiet through most of August -- no storms at all in the Atlantic or Gulf. In late August a disturbance moved into the Atlantic from Africa and began its trek to the west. The storm moved through the northern Caribbean islands and exited Cuba into the Gulf on Sept. 4. It then went through what we now know as rapid intensification over the warm waters of the eastern Gulf as it approached its date with history.

On September 8 -- 114 years ago Monday -- Galveston's path through history was radically changed. What is known as the 1900 Storm made landfall on the island as a category 4 hurricane. Much like the Bolivar Peninsula during Hurricane Ike, the storm surge eviscerated the city, which to some extent, is still dealing with the ramifications today.

An estimated 8,000 people died, mostly in Galveston. The 1900 Storm remains the record holder for the largest loss of life from a natural disaster in the USA.

After the storm, Galveston waned as a major port given the risk exposed by the hurricane. Houston began to rise in its place as the major port city for Texas after the storm. I sometimes hear people say a Galveston scale disaster is not possible today. Katrina dispelled that myth.

All is quiet in the Gulf and Caribbean as of Monday morning. A disturbance has just moved off Africa and is beginning its trek across the Atlantic.

Photo composite credit: Bill Bremer

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