“I looked and saw water rushing in from Galveston Bay on one side and from the gulf on the other. The two seas met in the middle of Broadway, swirling over the wooden paving blocks, and I couldn’t help but shudder at the sight. All of Galveston appeared to be under water” (Hale 73). The Galveston Storm of 1900 was an extremely destructive hurricane that devastated the little island of Galveston, Texas. Thousands of people were killed and the lives of many others were changed forever. Dark Water Rising, written by Marian Hale, is a breathtaking read that very accurately represents the events of The Galveston Storm of 1900.
This book follows the life of Seth Braeden and takes place in Galveston, Texas in the year 1900. The story begins when Seth moves with his family to Galveston in August 1900. He has been forced to move because his dad was adamant that Galveston was the booming city of the 20th century. When Seth and his family arrive, he thinks that the one thing he may actually enjoy about Galveston is his new job as a carpenter. He is skeptical at first, but upon arriving on his first day, he meets some great people that he would be working with to build a strip of new houses along the bay. Things are starting to look up for Seth and he begins to realize that Galveston may not be such a bad place after all. Unfortunately, a storm is coming that will forever change the life of everyone it touches. Nobody has time to prepare for the storm and when it starts, Seth is at work with his friend Josiah. The two realize that this storm is going to be like no other, and they know they must find shelter immediately. They go to Seth’s Uncle Nate’s house. When Seth realizes that his parents are not there, he and Josiah go to a neighbor’s house to wait out the storm. They arrive safely before the storm reaches them. When they get inside, they see many neighbors have also come to wait out the storm. As the gravity of the situation begins to dawn on Seth and he realizes what this storm may mean for him and his family, he sits down and a wave of queasiness hits him. “Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a small table slide a few feet across the floor. I stared at it, confused for a moment then felt the whole house rise and rock like a ship at sea. Shocked cries sounded all around me. We were afloat” (Hale 88). This terrifying moment didn’t last long and they soon hit the ground with a jaw shattering jolt. Water began to rush into the house and everyone fled upstairs in a desperate attempt to stay above it. With little else to do, everyone waited, hoping and praying that their lives may be spared. Seth eventually fell asleep awaiting his fate. When he awoke, all was quiet. The winds had died down and he could no longer hear the rushing water beneath him. The house was severely damaged but miraculously, everybody survived. The storm was over but the real challenges lie ahead because the storm has caused so much destruction. Thousands of people lay dead in the streets or tangled in the rubble of the city. Seth and Josiah made it home but not without seeing the trauma this storm had brought. They saw hundreds of bodies and people begging for information about loved ones that never made it back home the previous night. When Seth and Josiah arrived home, they saw that everyone had made it back; except Seth’s Uncle Nate and his cousin Ben. Fearing that they have been killed, but hoping for the best, the family began searching for them, but with all of the wreckage and little information of where they had been, their search was hopeless. Uncle Nate and Ben were never seen again.
This storm had caused great loss, however with great loss there was great triumph and life continued to go on. Wreckage was cleared out, some stores in town that were still standing received power again, and the school year had a new start date. The death and destruction were very great, but the people of Galveston learned to cope with it. The book ends on New Year’s Eve with people gathered on the beach just months after the city was ravaged by the great storm. The tragedy of this storm brought the survivors closer together. There were no fireworks that year, but the people on the beach began to sing the chorus of “Auld Lang Syne”. It was very difficult for normal life to return, but with the unity of the survivors of the storm, life continued on for Seth and his family. The victims of the storm would always be remembered by the city of Galveston.
Dark Water Rising is based on The Galveston Storm Of 1900. This storm claimed anywhere from 6,000-12,000 lives. The Island of Galveston, Texas was really nothing more than a sandbar in the ocean. It could stand up to small storms, but with a storm as large as the 1900 storm the little island was doomed. One of the main reasons this storm was so bad was that there was almost no warning. The storm flag had not gone up until earlier the day of the storm (Frequently). Galveston had endured other storms with very little damage and the people did not see why this one would be any different. Everyone on the island was forced to wait where they were and see how things would turn out. However, this was not like other storms at all. The rushing water drowned thousands and the loose debris took another couple thousand. By the end, people lay dead in the streets and few buildings remained standing (Galveston). This storm ravaged the city of Galveston and changed people’s lives forever.
Dark Water Rising shows a very accurate portrayal of events throughout the course of the book by keeping the reader interested while also informing them of actual events and facts. For example, when Seth and his family arrive in Galveston, his Uncle Nate says, “Galveston is fast becoming the New York City of Texas” (Hale 3). The reason for this was mostly the shipping industry which made Galveston the 3rd richest city in America. Galveston was right on the bay and was a major port as twelve hundred ships loaded and unloaded cargo there every year (Economist's). Another way Hale shows the accuracy of her book is through events and statistics from after the storm. The death toll was high and the bodies had to be dealt with. There weren’t many options and time was of the essence. After a few failed tries at body disposal, they found the one option that would work. Unfortunately, the survivors had to witness this method. In the book, Seth says, “Workers dug trenches at first, but now they are just burning them where they find them, just piling the wreckage on top of them and torching it. It’s a terrible sight.” (Hale 172). The bodies couldn’t be left in the streets and with the fear of disease, not much else could be done (Frequently). Hale’s portrayal of the wreckage left by the storm in her book is very accurate. The book says, “Houses and buildings lay tilted crazily, and many lay tumbled topsy-turvy, kicked over like toy blocks.” (Hale 111). This quote is very true as most of Galveston was completely flattened. Only a very few well built mansions and some other lucky buildings survived this storm that was estimated at a strength of about a category 4 when it hit Galveston (1900).
Although most of Marian Hale’s book is true, the ending of the book sacrifices the facts for an interesting story. A very key moment occurs on page 214 when Seth and the rest of his family go to the beach and watch the fireworks. When this is done everyone on the beach begins to sing the chorus of Auld Lang Syne. This moment is when Seth begins to accept what has happened and move on. He says, “It is time for goodbyes, time to let loose the storms bindings.” (Hale 215). However, there is no evidence that this event actually happened. The author Marian Hale most likely added it in for dramatic effect instead of for information about what actually happened on New Year’s Eve in the year 1900.
The time period of this book influenced Seth because he had the misfortune of moving to Galveston the year of the storm. Galveston’s elevation at that time was only 5 or 6 feet above the mean low tide line. When the storm came in, the island was thoroughly ravaged and many homes were ruined from water damage. If Seth lived in Galveston today, this would not have been the case. The Galveston Seawall, now in use, stretches 10 miles along the oceanfront where it protects the island from future tropical storms. After the seawall was built, the island underwent grade rising. This was an extensive construction project that lasted from 1903-1911, and ultimately raised 500 city blocks using 16 million cubic yards of dredged sand which was placed under jacked up homes, churches, and businesses. This project ended up raising the island to about 17 feet above the mean low tide mark. If Seth were to live in Galveston now and this same storm had hit, the damage would have been much less extensive and the death toll and devastation to the island would have been much lower (Seawall).
Marian Hale’s book Dark Water Rising accurately displays the events of the Galveston Storm of 1900. Many people today would find it hard to believe the reality of what occurred during this storm. This book shows the reader the difficulties that the residents of Galveston faced the day of the storm. It is incredibly terrifying to see what can happen when a natural disaster strikes so close to home. This book shows the tragedy of the storm and informs the reader of how lucky they are to live in a modern time with more advanced technology and more intense precautions to protect them from the elements. While we still cannot completely prevent storms such as these from damaging our cities and towns, we have greatly improved from where we were in 1900 when the catastrophic storm took thousands of lives from the little island of Galveston.