“For a While…It Was Fun”

Then the full force of the storm hit. By the time it had played itself out, Galveston, Texas, was a shambles

Galveston, Texas
Library of Congress

On September 8, l900, a hurricane that had swept across the Gulf of Mexico slammed into Galveston, Texas. Situated on an island that amounted to little more than an unprotected sandbar, the city was devastated. Entire neighborhoods were obliterated. Shipping facilities were demolished. Some 8,000 people died, a toll that exceeds the total loss of life caused by the Chicago fire of 1871, the calamitous forest fire at Peshtigo, Wisconsin, that same year, the Johnstown flood of 1889, the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and the Florida hurricane of 1928.

Before the full force of the hurricane struck, women and children frolicked in the rising waters. Once the seriousness of the situation became apparent, there was no escaping. Houses were knocked off their foundations and carried away. Thousands struggled to find refuge from the relentless battering of wind and waves. Some survived by luck or their heroic efforts; others were rescued by intrepid individuals who risked their own lives.

Once the storm passed, the city was a grisly shambles. Bodies, torn and naked, were everywhere. Looting broke out and martial law was declared. Within days, however, shipping had resumed. Eventually a seawall was built to avert a similar disaster, and today Galveston is a thriving port where tourists can view a multimedia documentary about the terrible hurricane in a theater on the waterfront that bore its brunt nearly a century ago.

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