Friday, January 9, 2015

115+ Years Later, They Just Call it "The Storm"... Galveston, Texas. No other descriptions are needed. That is why as Katrina was barreling through the Gulf of Mexico, in 2005, Galveston had a fleet of school buses gassed and ready to go, just in case, while New Orleans' fleet of school buses was awaiting being idle and then flooded. Galveston will probably always be ready, as much as is possible, anytime a hurricane moves westward through the Gulf of Mexico.

Saturday was the anniversary, though I didn't find this Galveston Storm website, until tonight, by way of this Blue Crab Boulevard post.

To provide the context that others miss, we need to remember the death toll of this storm, as recounted on Blue Crab Boulevard:

..."at least 6,000 in Galveston proper and possibly as many as 12,000 in the immediate region."

This was out of a Galveston population of approximately 37,000. Approximately 1 out of every 6 persons died. In contrast, the estimated death toll for the 1906 San Francisco earthquake was 3,000. Adding the death toll from the 1889 Johnstown, PA flood still does not equal the Galveston death toll.

The hurricane changed the course of Texas history. Prior to the hurricane, Galveston was a major economic powerhouse. After the hurricane, economic activity shifted inland to Houston, which was protected from the direct storm surge.

The story of the storm was recounted in the book "Isaac's Storm", named after the U.S. Weather Bureau meteorologist on duty in Galveston, Isaac Cline. The paperback edition of this book, by Erik Larson, was published by Random House, ISBN 0-375-70827-8.

From the Random House website, here is a portion of the narrative on the book:

"'An absurd delusion,' is how Isaac Cline, a dedicated and highly trained first-generation employee of the new U.S. Weather Bureau, characterized the fear that any hurricane posed a serious danger to the burgeoning city of Galveston, Texas. Based partly on Cline's expert opinion, Galveston dismissed a proposal to erect a seawall, claiming it a needless, wasteful expense."...

..."At the turn of the century, Galveston was booming. It was the nation's biggest cotton port, its third-busiest port overall, and the second-most-heavily-traversed entry for immigrants arriving from Europe, nicknamed the "Western Ellis Island." The city had more millionaires, street for street, than any other in America. The nation, too, was bursting at its borders with optimism and confidence."...

Not to minimize the death toll from Hurricane Katrina, but if you hear the characterization of Katrina as "the worst", please endeavor to politely remind the speaker of the 1900 Galveston hurricane, as the human death toll is a measure that should never be forgotten in favor of monetary damages. But to some, what is highlighted depends on the political benefits.

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