Galveston Hurricane: The Deadliest Day In American History


Removing dead bodies to the barges for burial at sea. (NOAA Photo Library/Wikimedia Commons)

September 8, 1900 became the deadliest day in American history when Galveston, Texas experienced one of the most destructive hurricanes to ever hit the Gulf Coast. Streets were flooded, homes were destroyed, and between 8,000 and 12,000 people lost their lives.

A Storm A-Coming

More than a week before the hurricane, a ship about 1,000 miles off the coast of the West Indies noted that the weather seemed "unsettled." That's not exactly a warning sign, but that unsettled weather soon became disastrous when it reached North America. Storms hit the Caribbean and brewed off the coast of Florida, but they were nowhere near as bad as what hit the Gulf of Mexico.

It didn't help that America was only two years removed from the Spanish–American War, which ended with Spain relinquishing claims on Cuba. The Caribbean country had become a top authority in storm-tracking, so out of jealousy, the American Weather Bureau's director "shut off the flow of data from Cuba to the U.S." That meant no warning that the storm—which the Weather Bureau had predicted would move up the East Cost—was coming for Galveston. It was a real "cutting off your coast to spite a completely different country" situation.