On Sept. 9, 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, making it the fourth most populous — as well as the wealthiest — city in the state of Texas.
The 15-foot storm surge submerged the entire island (really just a coastal sand bar) to a depth of 6 to 15 feet. A wave-driven, two-story high pile of debris, was pushed through downtown, leveling all but the strongest mansions in the city.
Thousands drowned and many were washed out to sea. The final death count is estimated to have been between 6,000 and 10,000 people. After the storm, the city of Galveston built a concrete reinforced sea wall which continues to offer at least some protection for this vulnerable location.