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Galveston HurricaneReturn
Timber clogs a Galveston street after the 1900 hurricane.
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Location: Galveston, Texas
Date: September 1900
Intensity at landfall: Category Four
Dead: At least 10,000
Injured: At least 5,000
Damage: 30 million dollars (1900 dollars)

The 1900 hurricane that swamped Galveston, Texas, killed so many people—more than any other natural disaster in U.S. history—that the skies went dark days later from funeral pyres.

Though weather officials in this city on the tip of Galveston Island were notified by telegraph of the coming storm, only half of the island's population evacuated.

On September 8 the hurricane hit the island. Winds gusting to 140 miles (225 kilometers) an hour stripped roofs off homes and scrubbed areas clean of vegetation.

But the hurricane's most dangerous blow was its 15-foot-high (4.6-meter-high) storm surge. Water submerged the city and roared down its streets.

More than 2,500 homes were swept away. Survivors clung to floating roofs or treetops; others were washed away.

Historians estimate that at least 10,000 people died in the storm, at least 6,000 of them on Galveston Island. Bodies not swept out to sea were piled in the city's business district, where the hurricane had deposited them. More bodies clogged Galveston Bay.

At St. Mary's Orphanage, panicked nuns tied children to their waists with clothesline to keep them close. After the storm the bodies of all ten nuns and 90 of the orphanage's 93 children were found nearby.

The hot Texas weather made the massive numbers of decomposing bodies a serious health issue, and funeral pyres were ordered. The smoke darkened the island for weeks.

After the devastation of the 1900 storm, Galveston built a protective seawall, which still stands today, and raised the island's elevation.

In 1915, another hurricane hit the island. Only eight people were killed.

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