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Weather Talk: Anniversary of the deadliest storm in U.S. history

On this date in 1900, the deadliest natural disaster in the history of the United States occurred. Katrina may well have been the costliest hurricane, but the Galveston hurricane of 1900 was the deadliest. Coming ashore with 145 mph winds, the storm would be rated Category 4 (out of five) by today's standards.

At the time, Galveston Island had a population of around 40,000 people which made it the fourth most populous — and also the wealthiest — city in Texas.

Unfortunately, the 15-foot storm surge submerged the entire island (really just a coastal sand bar) to a depth of 6 to 15 feet. The surf pounded houses to pieces and many people drowned.

Virtually every structure on the island was destroyed except for a few solidly built stone mansions. The final death count is estimated to have been 6,000 to 10,000 people.

After the storm, The city of Galveston built a reinforced concrete sea wall which continues to offer at least some protection for this vulnerable location.

John Wheeler

John was born in Baton Rouge, LA, and grew up near Birmingham, Alabama. As a teenager, his family moved to Madison, Wisconsin, and later to a small town in northeast Iowa. John traces his early interest in weather to the difference in climate between Alabama and Wisconsin. He is a graduate of Iowa State University with a degree in meteorology. Like any meteorologist, John is intrigued by extremes of weather, especially arctic air outbreaks and winter storms.  John has been known to say he prefers his summers to be hot but in winter, he prefers the cold.  When away from work, John enjoys long-distance running and reading.  John has been a meteorologist at WDAY since May of 1985.

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