Today, the Texas State Quarter Coin remembers the storm that devastated Galveston on September 8, 1900.
The following day, the Spokesman-Review newspaper out of Spokane, Washington printed the following initial and brief reports of the storm damage to the gulf cities on September 8, 1900.
Southern City in Great Danger
Galveston Shut Off from the Outside World.
Gulf Creeping In.
Flood Has Reached the Residence Portion of the City.
Houston is in Distress.
No Lights, Streets Deserted, Tin Roofs on the Ground, Stacks Blown Down.
Houston, Tex., Sept. 8—A hurricane, accompanied by a heavy rain, has been blowing along the Texas coast and for a hundred miles inland today. Galveston is shut off entirely. The last report from Galveston states that the Gulf waters were encroaching rapidly on the beach and that the flood reached into the residence portion of the city for several blocks. The waves were very high and boisterous in the bay and considerable damage was being done to small craft, though the big boats were not in any danger.
Awful Wind at Houston.
Houston, Tex., Sept. 8—Midnight.—The wind is blowing 60 miles an hour in Houston at midnight and great damage is being done to business houses and residences throughout the city. The Associated Press wire is the only one that is working, all other telegraph and telephone business being shut off.
The electric-light plant has been closed down, as the wires became crossed with telephone wires and some persons were shocked, though none was seriously injured. Several great brick and iron stacks have been blown over and tin roofs are as numerous on the ground as on houses. The streets are utterly deserted. So far there have been no casualties.
The storm has spread to the interior, and there is great anxiety in this city. Persons are offering extraordinary sums to the telegraph companies to get messages through to Galveston and other points, but nothing can be done for them. Up to midnight nothing has been heard from Galveston.
Rumor of Great Damage.
New Orleans, Sept. 8.—A special from Houston, Tex., says”
There is an unconfirmed rumor that the hurricane played havoc with the town of Rockport, on the lower coast, and that the great clubhouse built by E. H. R. Green, near there, has been blown away, with loss of life.
Only Galveston Dispatch.
St. Louis, Sept. 8.—A dispatch to the Post-Dispatch from Galveston, Texas, says:
It is storming here now harder than ever known before. The waters of the gulf will be up in the streets of the city if the present blow keeps through the day. The water is very high now.
Low-Lying Parts Are Flooded.
San Antonio, Tex., Sept. 8.—Possibly the last dispatch out of the flooded city of Galveston was received in San Antonio tonight by Jerry Girard, announcing the death of his brother by drowning.
The message left Galveston at 8:50. The entire lower portion of Galveston was then flooded and the people were huddled on higher ground, in the pouring rain, for safety.
Girard’s brother was carried out to sea and drowned while endeavoring to rescue a family in a shanty that was being dashed to pieces by the waves.
All Texas Is Worried.
New Orleans, Sept. 8.—A special from Dallas, Tex., says:
All Texas is in the keenest state of doubt and uncertainty tonight concerning the fate of Galveston island and city. It is said that the bridges leading from the mainland to the island have been swept away by the terrible force of the wind and the rolling up of the water in the bay.
The bridges are four in number, three for railroad uses and one, the Galveston county wagon and pedestrian bridge. It seems hardly credible that all these bridges could be swept away without the city suffering great loss.
As feared, the storm devastated Galveston with significant loss of life and property.
In the Lantern Slide Illustrations for the Teaching of Meteorology, published in 1906, Henry J. Cox and J. Paul Goode described the storm, meteorologically and also provided statistics for the loss in lives and property:
The hurricane of September, 1900, is known as the Galveston storm because it wrecked the city of Galveston, Tex.
This storm first appeared on the morning of September 1 in the Windward Islands. It moved slowly in a northwesterly direction.
During September 3 and 4 it was south of Cuba, and by the morning of the 5th had passed over that island. There it began to take a due northerly course, and continued in that direction directly across Key West, and by the evening of September 6 was centered south of Tampa.
Instead of re-curving to the northeast, as these storms usually do, soon after having assumed the northerly direction, its course was changed to slightly north of west into the Gulf of Mexico, and here it was apparently lost for a couple of days, complete observations not being obtainable.
The reason for this abnormal movement can be determined from a study of the weather maps of September 8 and on the dates previous.
While the normal course would have been northeast after reaching Florida, this storm found in its way covering the Atlantic coast an area of high barometer, while the barometer was low over the interior of the United States.
The map of September 8, 1900, 8 P. M., shows graphically this distribution of pressure.
Hurricanes as well as other storms always take the path of least resistance; and this storm was consequently shunted across the Gulf of Mexico to strike the Texan coast at Galveston, only because an area of high pressure stood in its way on the Atlantic coast.
It is probably true that the head of the storm, though lifted high enough to come under the sway of the prevailing westerlies above the neutral plane, as shown by its progress northward as far as Tampa, at this stage fell from the control of the upper winds, and drifted westward down the gradient toward the low area on the Great Plains, reaching Galveston before it again came well within the region of the prevailing westerlies in the upper atmosphere.
The force of the storm was much intensified in its movement across the Gulf of Mexico, the barometer apparently falling rapidly in the center, the minimum reading at Galveston being 28.53 inches at 8.10 P.M., September 8, which was immediately after the observations upon which the chart of that evening is based.
The destruction wrought to the city of Galveston by wind and water was unprecedented; 6,000 lives were lost, 3,636 houses totally destroyed, and the damage to property, including buildings, personal and other property, has been estimated at $30,000,000.
The greatest wind velocity recorded at the Galveston station was 84 miles per hour at 6:15 P. M., at which time the anemometer blew away.
It was estimated that a maximum velocity of 120 miles per hour occurred later.
The storm lost force immediately following the night of September 8.
In fact, it is usual for these hurricanes, after passing over a water surface to the land, to lose energy rapidly and fill up in the center, there being less moisture for the development, and the land surface causes the air currents, rotating around the center, to diminish rapidly through friction.
From the 9th to the 10th it moved from Texas to Oklahoma, still further diminishing in energy and following northward the trough of low barometer.
By the morning of the 11th it had joined forces with the low which had been in the interior for several days, and it appeared again as a well-defined storm over Iowa, the barometer falling rapidly in its front, and the winds increasing within its area.
During the 11th it crossed over the Great Lakes, the winds reaching the force of a hurricane at several stations, and on the morning of the 12th it was passing down the St. Lawrence valley near Quebec, the barometer reading 29.1 inches.
The Texas State Quarter Coin shows with an image of the devastation at 18th and N streets in Galveston, September 1900.