Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Did our ancestors worry about hurricanes?

I guess this blog posting comes from what's on all of our minds, lately...namely those sinister siblings Gustav, Hanna, Ike, and Josephine. While I can currently turn on any television or log on to any computer and pull up satellite images of where the hurricanes and tropical storms are, our ancestors didn't have that luxury. What did they know? Were they worried? What precautions did they take?

Here's a really neat timeline from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

Hurricane timeline: The 1800s


Scientists began to understand hurricanes during the 1800s, and forecasters were able to issue warnings as storms approached. Despite this growing knowledge, hurricanes continued to cause incredible destruction throughout the century.

1815 -- Destructive hurricane hits New England. "The Great September Gale" hit New England in September of 1815. It first made landfall on Long Island, N.Y., and then again in Connecticut. The storm flooded Providene, R.I., and caused extensive damage throughout the region.

1819 -- Concept of hurricanes as "moving vortex" published A Harvard professor concluded in an 1819 article that a hurricane "appears to have been a moving vortex and not the rushing forward of a great body of the atmosphere."

1837 -- "Racer's Storm" leaves 2,000-mile path of destruction. Racer's Storm, named for a British sloop of war which encountered the storm in the northwest Caribbean, was one of the most destructive storms of the 19th century. It formed near Jamaica, crossed the Yucatan, struck the Gulf coast of Texas, and moved over Lousiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina before arriving off the North Carolina coast on October 9.

1846 -- September hurricane creates inlets on the North Carolina Outer BanksTwo major inlets on the Outer Banks of North Carolina were cut by a hurricane in September 1846. Later in the year, a severe hurricane struck the Florida Keys destroying or damaging all but eight of the 600 houses in Key West. Some experts say this hurricane was probably a Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

1848 -- Hurricane pushes a 15-foot tide through Tampa, Fla. Fort Brooke, site of the present-day city of Tampa, was nearly destroyed by two hurricanes that hit the area within a month of each other.

1873 -- First hurricane warning issued in the U.S. The U.S. Army Signal Corps warned of a storm approaching the coast between Cape May, N.J., and New London, Conn. The storm never made landfall.

1878 -- Hurricane remains over Florida for three days. A slow-moving hurricane made landfall in the Florida Keys and slowly made its way up the center of the state.

1881 -- Hurricane kills 700 in Georgia and South Carolina. Savannah and Augusta, Ga., experienced severe damage when this hurricane came ashore in August 1881. Several barrier islands were completely submerged by the storm surge.

1886 -- June storm dumps 21.4 inches of rain on Alexandria, La. After flooding the Louisiana coast, the storm moved into Texas where it completely destroyed the city of Indianola. Indianola was never rebuilt.

1893 -- Two storms kill thousands in South. In August, between 1,000 and 2,000 are killed in a storm that submerged the South Carolina barrier islands. In October, another storm flooded a Louisiana bayou, killing 2,000 people.

You can also find historical hurricane photos on the site, although they are later than Log Cabin Village's time period.

And here is great information from MY favorite online source, The Handbook of Texas online:

HURRICANES. The largest and most destructive storms affecting the Texas coast are the tropical cyclones that occur seasonally from late June through October. From 1818 to 1885 at least twenty-eight hurricanes struck Texas, and from 1885 through 1964 sixty-six tropical storms were recorded, about two-thirds of which were of hurricane force (with winds of more than seventy-four miles an hour). Two major hurricanes occurred in the five years from 1965 to 1970. Frequently these storms rushed inland, causing destruction and flooding in the interior, but the heaviest damage has always been to population centers along the coast.

A hurricane spoiled Jean Laffite's pirate encampment on Galveston Island in 1818, and "Racer's Storm" passed over the same area in 1837. This strong wind, named for the Racer, a British sloop-of-war that encountered the storm in the Yucat√°n Channel, reached Brownsville about October 4, curved up the coastline over Galveston, and then moved eastward to the Atlantic Ocean near Charleston, South Carolina. Racer's Storm wrecked nearly every vessel on the coast and blew away all the houses on Galveston Island. It sent floodwaters inland fifteen to twenty miles over the coastal prairies.

Five years later, in September 1842, Galveston was again prostrated. No lives were lost, but parts of the city were tossed about like "pieces of a toy town." Damage to ships and buildings amounted to $50,000. Another September storm struck Texas in 1854 between Galveston and Matagorda. Matagorda was leveled, Houston sustained a $30,000 loss, and heavy damage was reported at Lynchburg, San Jacinto, Velasco, Quintana, Brazoria, Columbia, and Sabine Pass.

The entire Texas coast felt the hurricane of 1867, which entered the state south of Galveston on October 3. Bagdad and Clarksville, at the mouth of the Rio Grande, were flattened, while Galveston was flooded and raked for a loss of $1 million.

On September 16, 1875, a hurricane washed away three-fourths of the buildings in Indianola, Calhoun County, and killed 176 people. Five years later, on October 12-13, 1880, many lives were lost and Brownsville was nearly destroyed by a tropical wind. A second hurricane in Indianola on August 19-20, 1886, struck the town, destroying or damaging every structure.

The Galveston hurricane of 1900, on September 8-9, is known as the worst natural disaster in United States history. Although the wind was estimated at 120 miles per hour, flooding caused most of the damage. The island was completely inundated. Property loss amounted to about $40 million, and an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 persons perished. On August 16-19, 1915, Galveston again received the brunt of a vicious hurricane. Damage amounted to $50 million, but only 275 lives were lost because of the protection afforded by a new seawall.

No comments: