Galveston and the Great Storm of 1900 - STORM WARNINGS

This NOAA map depicts the direction of the Great Storm of 1900. Unfortunately for the people of Galveston, they were unaware that a major hurricane and a massive storm surge were about to overwhelm their barrier island. The map, depicted here, was created after-the-fact. Online via NOAA.


How much warning did the people of Galveston have? According to Erik Larson, who researched the U.S. National Archives for his book Isaac's Storm, they could have had much more.

Had the newly formed U.S. Weather Bureau been willing to listen to Cubans who had experienced the storm as it moved over their island, Galveston's death toll may have been less. But days before "The Great 1900 Storm" developed, Willis Moore (who was Washington D.C.'s chief of the self-proclaimed "most perfect weather service in the world") made a momentous decision.

He ordered a ban on all Cuban weather dispatches.

The Cubans were outraged.* At the height of the hurricane season, with people depending on their expertise, how could they communicate with other weather stations if their warning cablegrams were banned?

Tracking the tropical storm, and interpreting its data, the Cubans believed it would intensify and move into the Gulf of Mexico as a full-fledged hurricane on a course toward Texas.

William Stockman, a U.S. Weather Bureau employee in Cuba, thought the storm would turn east as it passed over Cuba and then move up the Atlantic coast. He did not call it a hurricane.

People who worked for the U.S. Weather Service, at the time, were not allowed to use that word unless the Bureau chiefs approved. Merely using the word "hurricane" would scare people.

Working with limited weather-predicting tools, the Bureau's reputation for accuracy wasn't good in those early years. Unlike today, weather prediction then was more like weather speculation.


*See Footnote 104, page 288, of Isaac's Storm which states: "The complete story lies in Box 1471" of the National Archives; General Correspondence.


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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Dec 01, 2002

Updated Last Revision: Aug 25, 2018

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"STORM WARNINGS" AwesomeStories.com. Dec 01, 2002. Feb 17, 2020.
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