The city of Galveston, Texas, on a low-lying barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, is the site of the worst natural disaster ever to strike the United States. In September 1900, a hurricane with wind speeds estimated as high as 160 kilometers an hour raised a 6-meter storm surge that covered the entire island with 3-5 meters of water. At least 6,000 people were killed, more than 3,500 houses were destroyed, and a third of the city was leveled by the wind, waves, and wreckage. A wall of debris--streetcar tracks, lengts of railroad track, sections of wrecked houses--built up to about six streets inland from the beach and parallel to it, saving much of the business district from total destruction.
To protect the city from further disastrous hurricanes, Galveston and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers raised the land surface by more than 3 meters and built a massive seawall along the entire Gulf side of the city, at a cost of $3.5 million--a vast sum in 1900. Later additions have extended the wall along the coast more than 16 kilometers. Where no groins hold the sand, the beach has disappeared; beyond the western end of the wall, the beach has eroded back about 50 meters. In 1961 Hurricane Carla struck the Texas coast, flooding more than 1.5 million acres of land and causing considerable damage in the parts of Galveston not protected by the seawall.
Deadliest U.S. natural disasters
||Hurricane and flood
||More than 6,000 dead; 3,600 houses destroyed.
||Dam collapse and flood
||More than 2,200 dead.
||More than 1,200 dead; 2 billion trees burned.
||San Francisco, California
||Earthquake and fire
||More than 700 dead or missing; more than 10 square kilometers of the city razed.
|Maintained by J.M. Watson||http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/c1075/galveston.html||Last updated 9.11.97|