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2015

September 2015



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U.S. Census Bureau History: 1900 Galveston Hurricane


Storm-twisted house in Galveston
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The September 8, 1900, Galveston Hurricane's 145 mph winds
and storm surge swept many homes away and left others so
damaged they were uninhabitable.
Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

September 2015 marks the anniversary of the 1900 Galveston Hurricane—a Category 4 storm that swept through the Caribbean and Florida in early September and made landfall at Galveston, TX, on September 8, 1900. The storm was so destructive that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration still characterizes the 1900 Galveston Hurricane as the "greatest natural disaster to ever strike the United States."

Galveston, a barrier island located approximately 50 miles southeast of Houston, TX, was particularly vulnerable to hurricanes because of its low elevation. In 1900, Galveston's highest point was a mere 9 feet above sea level, but the hurricane's storm surge reached more than 15 feet. The hurricane's surge and 145 mph winds killed an estimated 8,000 people (20 percent of the city's population) and swept away more than 3,600 homes, leaving 30,000 homeless.

Galveston's population recovered quickly after the 1900 hurricane with its population peaking at 67,175 in 1960. Despite being a frequent target of tropical storms and hurricanes, Galveston's Gulf of Mexico location continues to make it a popular destination for tourists and beachgoers and the city's port facilities attract maritime trade and cruise lines. The 2013 American Community Survey found that educational services, health care, and social assistance industries employ 6,699 (30.8 percent) of the city's population and 3,713 (17.1 percent) worked in the arts, entertainment, and recreation, or accommodation and food services industries.

You can learn more about the 1900 Galveston Hurricane and the city of Galveston, TX, using data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau and other government agencies. For example:

  • The 1900 Census was conducted three months before the 1900 Galveston Hurricane struck the city. That census found the population of Galveston was 37,789, and Galveston County numbered 44,116. The 1910 Census found that Galveston's population had nearly recovered from the storm's losses—counting 36,981 residents. Galveston County witnessed a slight increase compared with 1900—recording 44,479. In 2013, the American Community Survey found that the city of Galveston's population totaled 48,733 and Galveston County's population was 307,465.
  • The 1900 hurricane severaly damaged Galveston's port, but it was quickly rebuilt and the city resumed its role as a major cotton exporting center. Galveston was second only to New Orleans, LA, in 1900 and 1901, exporting 831,891,011 and 899,884,174 pounds of cotton, respectively. Galveston was the nation's leading cotton exporter in 1902 and 1904, and in 1906, it exported nearly 397 million pounds more cotton than New Orleans, and 733 million pounds more than Savannah, GA.
  • The National Hurricane Center estimates that the 1900 Galveston Hurricane killed approximately 8,000, making it the deadliest storm to hit the U.S. mainland, followed by the 1928 Lake Okeechobee Hurricane (2,500–3,000 deaths), and 2005's Hurricane Katrina (1,200 deaths). When adjusted for 2010 inflation, the 1926 Miami Hurricane caused nearly $164.8 billion in damage, followed by Hurricane Katrina ($113.4 billion), and the 1900 Galveston Hurricane ($104 billion).
  • The 2015 Hurricane Season began on June 1 and continues through November 30. To encourage storm preparedness, the Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released data showing that 51.5 percent of American homes have an emergency evacuation kit; 82 percent report having enough nonperishable food to sustain their household for 3 days; and 18.3 percent of single-family homes (excluding manufactured/mobile homes) have a generator.

Destruction caused by the Galveston Hurricane

The Galveston Hurricane of September 8, 1900, killed an estimated 8,000 people and destroyed more than 3,600 buildings.
Today, the 1900 hurricane remains the nation's deadliest natural disaster, followed by the 1928 Lake Okeechobee
Hurricane (2,500–3,000 deaths), and 2005's Hurricane Katrina (1,200 deaths).

Photo courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.




This Month in Census History


The U.S. Senate confirmed Sandra Day O'Connor as the first female Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court on September 21, 1981.

In January 1999, Justice O'Connor voted to halt the U.S. Census Bureau's proposal to use statistical sampling during the 2000 Census. In her dissenting opinion, Link to a non-federal Web site Justice O'Connor stated, "[The law] directly prohibits the use of sampling in the determination of population for purposes of apportionment."




Soldier kissing nurse on VJ Day
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On This Day in History


Hurricane Ike struck Galveston, TX, on September 12–13, 2008. The storm flooded most of the city, damaged 80 percent of its homes, and killed 17 people.

In 2019, the American Community Survey estimated Galveston was home to 49,990 people and 32,640 housing units. Five years after Hurricane Ike, the city had not fully recovered— recording a population of 48,178 and 33,315 housing units.

In comparison, Galveston County's overall population has grown from 286,326 in 2010 to 342,139 in 2019.

Photo courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.






Galveston Seawall
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Did You Know?


In 1902, Galveston began constructing a 16-foot thick, 17-foot tall seawall Link to a non-federal Web site and In 1902, Galveston began constructing a 16-foot thick, 17-foot tall seawall Link to a non-federal Web site and raised the island's elevation Link to a non-federal Web site by 8 feet using sand dredged from Galveston Bay.

The seawall protects Galveston's 4,071 businesses from storms like 1983's Hurricane Alicia, which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates could have caused $100 million in damage. It was not until 2008 that a storm (Hurricane Ike) overtopped the seawall.

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.









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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Census History Staff | Last Revised: December 08, 2021