While Texas is a pretty great state to live in, it isn’t immune to tragic accidents and natural disasters by any means. We have endured some pretty horrific incidences and disasters throughout our history, but they have made us more capable of dealing with difficult scenarios in the future. Our communities stick together during severe storms and man-made accidents, and we power through them as a team. With that said, these unbelievable tragedies and natural disasters tested the Texan spirit and reminded us to count on one another during life’s inevitable storms.
1) 1900 Galveston Hurricane
The infamous Hurricane of 1900 struck Galveston shores on September 8, 1900, killing 8,000-12,000 people in its wake. It is still the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history, and awakened Galveston citizens to the importance of having a seawall to shield them from future storms. To put the death toll into perspective, the 1900 Galveston Hurricane took the lives of more people than the total of all those killed in every tropical cyclone to make landfall in the U.S. since. Ranked a Category 4 storm, it had sustained winds of 145 mph, and caused $104.3 billion (2010 USD) in damage, making it the second costliest hurricane in U.S. history. While we may not have experienced the storm firsthand, us Texans can only imagine the sheer destruction that this storm caused, and are forever humbled by the power of Mother Nature.
2) 1947 Texas City Disaster
On April 16, 1947, the French ship SS Grandcamp docked at a port in Texas City caught fire and eventually exploded, leading to at least 581 fatalities and 5,000 injuries. The ship was carrying 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate, which detonated a little over an hour after smoke was spotted in the cargo hold. The blast leveled 1,000 buildings on land, set refineries and chemical tanks on fire, and brought people to their knees in Galveston, 10 miles away. It caused $1.06 billion in damage, and is considered the worst industrial accident in American history. This anchor from the ship now rests in a Memorial Park in Texas City, and is one of the only artifacts left from the horrific explosion.
3) Hurricane Ike
The third costliest hurricane in U.S. history made its final landfall in Galveston on September 13, 2008. It sent out a 20 foot storm surge in some places on the island, and caused $37.5 billion in damage, as well as at least 195 deaths.
4) Tropical Storm Allison
T.S. Allison was the costliest and deadliest tropical storm in U.S. history, causing 55 deaths and over $10 billion in damage. It formed into a tropical storm on June 5, 2001, and made landfall west of Galveston that night. It sat over Texas for days, dumping over 35 inches of rain in Houston, the city that received the brunt of the damage. Due to extreme destruction, Allison was the only tropical storm in history to have its name retired.
5) The 1953 Waco Tornado
The deadliest tornado in Texas history struck Waco on May 11,1953, which so happened to be Mother's Day. It touched down in the town of Lorena, moving northeast toward Waco. It grew to nearly 1/3 of a mile wide, and was classified as an F5 twister. The violent tornado killed 114 people and injured 597, and some people had to wait up to 14 hours to be rescued. It destroyed 600 homes and damaged 1000. The impact of the tornado also prompted the Texas Tornado Warning Conference in June 1953, where officials discussed tornado warning systems to prevent future death tolls like that of the Waco tornado.
6) Yellow Fever Outbreak of 1867
Considered one of Texas' worst disasters, thousands lost their lives during the 1867 yellow fever epidemic. Entire towns were wiped out because of the disease, and it wasn't until a few decades later that people could be certain it was contracted from the bite of a yellow fever mosquito.
7) Central Texas Flood of 1921
A tropical system that had originally made landfall in Mexico crossed into Texas territory on September 8, dumping over 38 inches of rain in Williamson County in Texas in just a 24-hour time period. It also flooded much of San Antonio and Austin, resulting in 224 recorded deaths and $19 million in damage. It was the worst flood in Texas history, and broke records for the amount of rainfall that accumulated in just one day.
8) New London School Explosion
On March 18, 1937, a natural gas leak caused a devastating explosion at the New London School in New London, Texas. It still stands as the worst school disaster in the nation, killing 219 students and teachers from the explosion and resulting building collapse. It is the third deadliest disaster in the history of Texas.
9) 1915 Galveston Hurricane
While only 11 people were killed in Galveston in this hurricane, it still was the fourth costliest hurricane in U.S. history, with $71.3 billion (2010 USD) in damages. It made landfall as a Category 4 storm, leaving 5-6 feet of water in many businesses.
10) 1947 Glazier-Higgins-Woodward Tornadoes
A total of 68 people from Texas were killed in a severe tornado outbreak that swept through Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. In all, 181 people died, and the entire towns of Glazier and Higgins, Texas were completely demolished. The F5 tornado responsible for flattening communities and taking lives traveled over 125 miles from Texas to Oklahoma. This is still known as one of the most violent and destructive tornadoes in Texas to date.
While Texas is no stranger to destructive weather and other disasters, we still are very thankful to live in a state where everyone supports each other and comes together in times of need. Please feel free to share your experiences with any natural or man-made disasters, and tell me any I may have forgotten.