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Weather

Galveston Storm Surge

Of course, snowstorms haven't been the only atmospheric heavyweights to come along. The warm season brings its own weather wonders, including hurricanes with their triple threat of wind, rain, and tidal surges. The twentieth century had just gotten underway when one of the greatest natural disasters in history took place. In 1900, Galveston, Texas, bore the brunt of a gigantic storm surge associated with a hurricane.

On Saturday, September 8, overcast skies and a light drizzle fell across the Texas Gulf coast. The wind increased, and the surf started to pound. The barometer fell to a very low 29 inches. By midday, the pressure had fallen another half inch. The wind increased so much that weather instruments were knocked out of service. During the evening, the wind increased to over 80 mph, and a huge storm surge hit at 7:32 P.M. By midnight, the storm began to abate, but the damage had been done. Galveston Island had washed into the sea, and 6,000 people had been killed. In terms of loss of life, there hasn't been another disaster of that magnitude in U.S. history. At the time, Galveston's highest point was only five feet above sea level. Since then, the city has been rebuilt and the entire island raised 17 feet.

Isaac Cline was the meteorologist-in-charge at the Weather Bureau office in Galveston at the time. His experiences in the storm were captured in the best-selling book Isaac's Storm.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Weather © 2002 by Mel Goldstein, Ph.D.. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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