The United States Weather Bureau had been formed in 1882 as a part of the US Army Signal Corps and Isaac Cline the Galveston Weather Bureau chief had been a part of the Bureau from the very begining. His brother, Joseph Cline, was his assistant weather observer.
In 1900 there were no worldwide weather reporting stations, doppler radar or planes to fly into the eye of a hurricane. Local weather stations throughout the United States reported local conditions to
their main Bureau office in Washington DC and local weather forecasts were telegraphed to all stations from the Bureau headquarters in Washington DC. Forecasts were also published in the local newspaper.
The Hurricane Season along the Gulf Coast normally runs from June 1 through November 30. With optimum conditions, however, storms may occur earlier or later in the year. Prior to 1900 there were storms in 1818, 1837,
1867, 1875 and in 1886.
Today hurricanes are defined in categories depending on certain characteristics and the intensity of the wind.
TROPICAL DISTURBANCE is defined as a moving area of thunderstorms of tropical origin that maintains its identity for 24 or more hours.
A TROPICAL DEPRESSION is a rotary circulation as the surface of water
with sustained winds of 30 miles per hour or less.
A TROPICAL STORM is a rotary circulation with sustained winds betwen 39 and 74 miles per hour.
A HURRICANE is a tropical cyclone with
sustained winds of 74 miles per hour or more.
Hurricanes are graded on an Intensity Scale from 1 to 5 based upon speed of the wind associatedwith it.
1 74-95 Miles Per Hour Renders Minimal Damage
2 96-110 Miles Per Hour Renders Moderate Damage
CATEGORY 3 111-130 Miles Per Hour Renders Extensive Damage
4 131-155 Miles Per Hour Renders Extreme Damage
5 155 Miles Per Hour and Up Renders Catastrophic Damage.
The Great Galveston Storm of 1900 is so
called because it occurred in the year 1900 and there was no system of naming storms or hurricanes at the time. Today Hurricanes are given sequentially predetermined names begining with a letter of the alphabet. The
first storm of a season is given a male or female name beginning with the letter "A", the second storm is given a name begining with the letter "B" and so forth until the last storm of the season. The following
season brings on a new set of names.
In early September 1900 there were a number of Tropical Disturbances in the Gulf of Mexico. While there is uncertainty over which one of these Distrubances actually
hit Galveston it is felt the first reports came about 4 PM on Tuesday September 4th. The Central Office in Washington sent a telegraph saying "Tropical storm disturbance moving northward over Cuba". It was later
reported this storm had begun about 125 miles northwest of Martinique, a small French island in the Windward chain 1500 miles southeast of Miami near latitude 15 degrees north, longtitude 63 west.
On the morning of August 30 the storm was 200 miles south of Puerto Rico and at 8 AM on September 1 it was traveling at about 15 miles per hour and was located 200 miles south of Santo Domingo and had
acquired the characteristics of a tropical hurricane.At 8 AM on Sunday September 2 the storm was reported moving westward and was located 200 miles south of Haiti. Here the storm took a northerly direction toward Cuba.
On the morning of September 3 it was 175 miles south of the center of Cuba and by 8 AM September 4 it was just south of Cuba. Santiago, Cuba got a total of twelve and a half inches of rain, ten of which
fell in eight hours.
On Wednesday September 5 the hurricane was 900 miles southeast of Galveston heading almost due north toward Florida. Washington warned vessels bound for Cuban and Florida ports to
On Thursday, September 6 the Galveston Weather Office was notified the center of the storm was in the Gulf of Mexico a short distance northwest of Key West, Florida. Later that evening
telegraph lines were broken south of Jacksonville and more went down between Jacksonville and Pensacola. Storm warnings were issued from Port Eads, Louisana on the Gulf, to Cape Hatteras on the Atlantic and advissory
messages were sent along the East Coast all the way to Boston.
At 9:35 AM on the morning of Friday September 7, the center of the storm was southeast of the Louisana coast. Storm
warnings were extended to Galveston. At 10:35 AM Cline received the notice and raised a red weather signal flag with a black center meaning a storm was approaching and white pennant meaning the storm wind would come
from the northeast. The winds at that time were blowing from the north at seventeen miles per hour.
According to all indications at the time Cline felt the storm would be to the
northeast of Galveston. If so, the Island would fare very little of the storm. About 1 AM on Saturday morning news wire reports at the newspaper office indicated the storm was hitting the coast of Mississippi and
Louisana. Telegraph lines along that coast were down and details were unavailable. The Florida-Alabama-Mississippi-Louisiana Gulf Coast inccurred a lot of wind, rain and flooding. Damage to the upper Gulf Coast later
became overshadowed by the damage that was later to occur in Galveston.
In Galveston people on their way home from work, those who got up to check on the storm or were early risers began discovering water
in their yards. The encroaching water did not excite them very much. Storms were common along the Texas coast and nearly all homes and business were elevated to accommodate the occaisional "overflows" created when the
tides got unusally high.The most devastating hurricane in Galveston history had occurred in 1875 which was considered pretty bad, but many were still alive and living on the Island that have weathered it. In between,
there were numerous hurricanes and storms. To offset damage to homes and businesses on the Island from "overruns" buildings were built several inches or even several feet off the ground. This allowed water to flow under
the building without entering and recede with the tide.
At 5 AM Saturday September 8 th Isaac Cline began measuring the tides. At that time the tide was four and a half feet
higher than normal. Gulf waters were covering the area near the beach and as far inland as four blocks in some places.
In his observations Cline measured a 15 mph norhwest
wind blowing against the swells which were coming from the southeast. Normally a north wind blowing into the Gulf caused a low tide. Instead the tide was continuing to rise.Cline realized the Island was going to a take
it hit, direct or otherwise, in this storm. He just did not know how bad it would be.
Cline hitched up his horse and buggy and rode the beach advising residents and tourists
to go to higher ground and leave the island. Since Saturday was a workday most of the residents had to work. To them it was just another day and they went about going to work as usual. All talk was about the swelling
waves. People would come to the beach and watch the swells. They felt it was just another storm swept inundation and the water would recede in a few hours.By 9 AM it was raining heavily and those that worked outside
sought shelter and many workers were let go earlier than normal later in the morning.
At 11 AM Cline reported the barometer was 29.417 and still falling. The temperature was 82.8
degrees. The wind was 30 mph from the north. By noon the water was inland to 12th Street, twelve blocks from the eastern limit of the city-and rising. By noon water got too high for streetcars to
traverse the rails that ran from one end of the city to the other and the railroad bridge that connected the island to the mainland. Still many long time residents believed the water would soon recede. Soon, too,
homes and buildings, icluding the bath houses on or near the beach were being knocked off their foundations and were breaking up in the waves. The debris from those broken building began being washed inland
hitting other buildings and knocking them down or knocking against them. While still believing the water would soon recede many people began seeking shelter in stronger buildings more distant from the beach
At 2:30 PM Cline reported the barometer at 29.166, the temperature at 82.8 and the wind at 42 mph from the northeast with gusts much faster. The rain gauge had blown away. The last reading
taken had been 1.27 inches. It was later estimated from other stations that a total of about 10 inches may have fallen. The people of the island, while still believing the water would recede began getting worried and
began seeking shelter on higher ground away from the beach.
Isaac Cline realized the storm was going to hit he island with full force. He prepared a telegraph for the Weather Bureau
in Washington that said the city was fast going under water and great loss of life would result. His brother, Joseph Cline, took the message to the Postal Telegraph office and Western Union office where he was told the
lines had been down over two hours. He next tried using the telephone and was able to convince the telephone company manager to get him a line to Houston. It was about 3 PM when he got his informational-distress
message to the telegraph office in Houston. Shortly thereafter the line broke. Galveston was isolated from the world and the water was rising