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The Galveston Hurricane


The Galveston Hurricane Over Labor Day weekend 1900, while many of his fellow residents of Galveston, Texas sought relief from the unusually hot September weather by wading in the cooling waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Isaac Cline focused his attention on weather developments hundreds of miles away in the Caribbean. Cline, the station chief at the Galveston weather bureau, was concerned with the movements of a hurricane packing winds in excess of 100 m.p.h. that was racing toward Florida, possibly headed across the Gulf. Cline's concerns were well founded. On September 8, Galveston, situated on a narrow spit of land 30 miles out on the southeast coast of the Lone Star state, was pummeled by the most severe hurricane to date to hit the US.

The 38,000 residents of Galveston had bravely contended with dangerous weather before. But no previous storm compared to the fury of wind and water that left the city entirely cut off from the mainland by late in the afternoon of the 8th. One-third of the city was literally swept off the map as violent waves, in the words of Isaac Cline, "acted as a battering ram." Six thousand people lost their lives, among them Cline's wife. Another 10,000 were left homeless. Reporter Richard Spillane wrote of "streets choked with debris, sandwiched with corpses; a city lifeless and bloomless."

When the winds finally calmed by late Sunday survivors turned their attention to burying the dead and rebuilding, nearly from scratch, their city. City leaders drew up plans to pump tons of sand from the Gulf of Mexico to raise the city by 7 feet, while construction of a concrete sea wall was planned to shield Galveston from future destruction.
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