Galveston Hurricane of 1900

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Georgina Salas


Module 2 Cycle A-Individual

Galveston Hurricane of 1900

Step 1: Read and analyze the scenario and situation.


Hurricanes Dean and Felix both made landfall in Central America in 2007. It was the first time since record keeping began in the late 1800s that two Category 5 Atlantic hurricanes made landfall in the same year. Also, on the same day Felix came ashore, Hurricane Henriette made landfall across the southern tip of Baja California. This marked the first time Atlantic and Pacific hurricanes made landfall on the same day, according to National Hurricane Center records that date back to 1949.

Are hurricanes increasing in intensity and frequency?

A look at the past tells us that intense hurricanes have plagued humans for some time. Even Columbus' fourth voyage in 1502 was marred by a colossal hurricane - one that sunk 20 treasure ships and killed 500 sailors in a nearby Spanish fleet. Was Katrina in 2005 the most devastating hurricane to hit North America in recent history? One might consider the Great Galveston Hurricane at the beginning of the 20th century as a contender.

Galveston, Texas, was on the rise in 1900. A major seaport for shipping cotton, it was in a race with Houston for prominence on the Texan coast. Sixteen foreign country consulates and millionaires' mansions graced the city of 37,000 people. Galveston was totally unprepared for what was about to happen. Many thought it nearly impossible for a hurricane to threaten the city. In late August and early September a tropical storm tracked across the Caribbean Sea and passed between Cuba and Florida. Many believed the storm would turn to the northeast as it passed the Florida Straits north of Cuba. This was a commonly accepted notion of how tropical cyclones were supposed to behave. It was unheard of for them to continue to the west.

But this storm, after strengthening into a hurricane just past Florida, would continue northwest on a path directly toward Galveston. The hurricane pushed a wall of water over 15 feet deep onto the island that, at its highest point, was only 8.7 feet above sea level. The wind whipped through Galveston at what was later estimated to be Category 4 speeds (131-155 mph). A 150 mph gust would have a pressure of 100 pounds per square foot. The lowest barometric pressure recorded during the storm was 28.44 inches. (NOAA later estimated that the pressure near the storm's eye was probably closer to 27.49 inches.)

On Sept. 9, Galveston lay in desolation. More than 6,000 people lost their lives to what remains the deadliest hurricane to ever hit the United States (some estimates range as high as 12,000 deaths). In addition to the thousands dead, the storm left millions of dollars of destruction in its wake. After making landfall at Galveston, the storm tracked north through Texas and then into Oklahoma and Kansas. The remnants of the storm made it northeastward across the Great Lakes and into Canada before passing north of Halifax on Sept. 12 and disappearing into the North Atlantic.

In addition to the loss of life and property, Galveston lost its allure as shipping firms moved their businesses to Houston. Galveston is now protected by a huge levee system to guard against future storms. Also, after the disaster, a six-mile long seawall was erected and has since been extended and the island was raised by pumping sand from the floor of the Gulf of Mexico. All buildings and roads were also constructed with elevated foundations in the city. When the Galveston Hurricane of 1915 hit, the city was much better prepared.


Now that Hurricane Katrina has once again awakened us to the threat of extra strong hurricanes, your group has been called upon to conduct an Earth system analysis of the 1900 Galveston Hurricane as a case study in how to prepare for this increasingly dangerous threat from Mother Nature.

Step 2: List your personal understandings, ideas, or hunches.

The Galveston Hurricane is considered one of the worst hurricanes to touch land. The city and residents of Galveston were not prepared of what was to come from the hurricane. There was a lot of destruction in the city. The hurricane killed at least 6,000 people but the number gets as high as 12,000 deaths. These deaths are not just in Galveston but also in the surrounding areas of Galveston. The hurricane left millions of dollars worth of destruction to not only life but property as well. Once clean up started, the city created a six-mile long sea wall that would protect the city from future hurricanes. Were the residents of Galveston given advance warning about the hurricane? Could all the devastation been prevented with warnings? Did the residents of Galveston not take the hurricane seriously?

Step 3: List what is known.

Event>Spheres and Sphere>Sphere

(Lithosphere, Atmosphere, Biosphere, Hydrosphere)

E>L With the high winds and water flooding property was destroyed.

E>B Loss of life, humans, was devastating and animal and plant life was also destroyed.

E>H The hurricane caused a shift in the ocean floor.

E>A The high winds also created lots of destruction to trees and buildings.

H>L The high water created destruction in the city of Galveston. There was lots of flooding.

A>B The high winds brought down trees, plants, and anything that was living.

H>B The flooding possibly drowned the animals that could not protect themselves. It also destroyed plant life.

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