Saturday, June 1, 2013


by Kathleen Y'Barbo

          June 1 is the start of hurricane season in the United States. Mention hurricanes in American history, and most thoughts turn to the Galveston hurricane of 1900. And while as of this writing, it remains the deadliest documented weather disaster in American history it is one of many major hurricanes to impact the region. 
          In fact, it might be argued that hurricanes affected not only the lives of those whose land they hit, but also they affected history. Entire cities, or in some case island, were lost and persons who might have gone on to greatness perished.

Here are just a very few of the major hurricanes that have been recorded:
  • July 1502: Christopher Columbus warns of an impending storm but is refused safe mooring in Santa Domingo by Nicholas de Ovando, Governor of Hispanola. Twenty-one of the thirty ships hit by the storm were sunk, resulting in the loss of 500 sailors.
  • August 1667: A storm surged through North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland destroying 80% of tobacco and corn crops as well as leveling 15,000 homes.
  • October 1780: A hurricane passed through the Caribbean and then turned north to plow through the colonies, finally passing through Newfoundland four days later, leaving as many as 24,000 fatalities in its wake. Because record-keeping only goes back to the 1850s, statistics on this storm are based on eyewitness reports.
  • September 1818: Jean Lafitte's pirate encampment at Galveston is battered by a storm that covered the island in four feet of seawater and destroyed all but six buildings erected by the pirate captain and his men
  • August 1886 and September 1886: Two storms roughly one month apart battered the Texas coast and effectively ended Indianola, Texas's reign as the leading port city and handing that title to Galveston. The September storm also wiped the city of Sabine Pass, Texas--a close neighbor to my hometown of Port Neches, Texas--off the map. It should be mentioned that Indianola was almost destroyed in 1875 when a hurricane leveled the town. The city rebuilt only to face this disaster almost exactly nine years later.
  • September 1900: Galveston, Texas is hit by what was later termed the Storm of the Century, a hurricane that leveled Galveston and then traveled all the way up through Canada emerging back into the Atlantic Ocean. Nurse Clara Barton's efforts have been documented as well as the recovery efforts of many who brought the once-great city back to life after somewhere between 6000 and 12,000 of its citizens were killed. In the process of this recovery, every existing structure in the city was raised by one floor and a great Seawall was built to protect the citizens from further disasters of this magnitude. In addition, an entirely new form of government called the "Galveston plan" emerged.
          As a native Texan born in the Gulf Coast region, I cannot remember a time when June 1 wasn't noted with all the respect due a harbinger of bad tidings. Only once during my childhood do I recall evacuating from the path of a hurricane--Hurricane Carla--and as a small child, I thought it great fun to listen to the wind and rain and sleep on my great aunt's sofa while the adults gathered around the radio.             
          Several times during the past decade, I have spent a night or several in a hotel or in a borrowed room at a relative's home while I watched Giraldo or Anderson Cooper stroll down the streets of my city with microphone and cameraman in tow. Once I returned to find a neighbor's immense pine tree poised on my roof with branches jutting through the ceilings in my kitchen, dining room, and master bedroom. But thanks to insurance companies, competent weathermen, and building contractors, the ultimate impact was minimal.
          However, can you imagine not knowing a hurricane was heading your way? What must it have been like for citizens of prior centuries to watch clouds gather and wind howl and not know whether this was a summer storm or a hurricane? How does a farmer or business man from a prior century overcome massive losses to crops, homes, and families? And how long the summer months must have seemed until finally November rolled around!


Bestselling author 
Kathleen Y’Barbo is a multiple Carol Award and RITA nominee of forty-five novels with almost two million copies of her books in print in the US and abroad. A Romantic Times Top Pick recipient of her novels, Kathleen is a proud military wife and an expatriate Texan cheering on her beloved Texas Aggies from north of the Red River. To find out more about Kathleen or connect with her through social media, check out her website at


  1. As devastating as recent hurricanes have been in the USA - it appears, from your blog, that they were even worse many years ago. I'm guessing that may be due to better communication & increased safety measures.
    I used to dream of living by an ocean, but have decided that the worry of hurricanes wouldn't be worth it to me.
    Thanks for an interesting blog entry.

  2. yes, how much worse to have no warnings. My first thought this morning was all the social media posts last night with the tornado (fri night OKC). Both types of storms can be so deadly. I'm glad to be north and deal with them on much smaller scale. What a blessing that last night's storms seems to have a very low mortality,

    Yet, a both type of storms are endlessly fascinating for their raw power.

  3. I cannot imagine not having warnings! It's so hard to imagine what those people thought when a hurricane would come bearing down on them. They are terrifying enough with warning! Great info I had never known before. I live in MI where we don't have much of anything to worry about up here besides an occasional flat line winds.
    Susan P

  4. Kathleen, you jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire when you moved from Texas's Hurricane Area to Tornado Alley.:)

    Thanks for this interesting post. I didn't know about all of those hurricanes. I wonder, too, how early pioneers dealt with severe weather incidents. I imagine many were ill-prepared to face such disasters.

  5. I grew up in MO so dealt with tornadoes. I cannot imagine what a hurricane would be like.

  6. Wow - what an interesting post with all the trouble in OK...very interesting...thanks

  7. What amazes me about storms is the way they can reduce our advanced, high tech culture down to the same vulnerability as people who lived a century ago. My friend lived near Houston during a major hurricane, and I remember how she fled with her husband and son--her son who had severe asthma and pneumonia and needed a nebulizer every four hours--and there they were, stuck on a highway evacuating with tens of thousands of others with no electricity, no ability to get medical help. Truly helpless feeling.
    Fascinating history, so dramatic.

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  9. Thank you for the interesting post. I love reading about historical information of this kind. My family history chronicles something akin to a hurricane in the year 1635 causing the ship on which my ancestors traveled from England, the Angel Gabriel, to sink just off Pemaquid Maine.

  10. I can't believe the death toll on some of those hurricanes. And to think the population was a fraction of what it is today. We live in SC and have seen hurricane after hurricane devastate Charleston. The city sits below sea level so that compounds problems. In 1989 Hugo traveled all the way up the state and into NC!