As with Ian in 2022, the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 was a moderate tropical storm when it passed over Cuba.
However, like Ian in 2022, the1900 storm almost instantly turned into a monster Category 4 killer hurricane when it left Cuba. It had winds of 150 miles per hour when it hit the Steamship Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico. When it hit Galveston, its storm surge and heavy rains killed 6,000 to 12,000 people in Texas alone. This was long before “global warming” and “climate change”.
The storm was described in this gospel song “Wasn’t It A Mighty Storm” composed around 1915. It was also the subject of Isaac’s Storm written by Erik Larsen in 1999.
“The barometer continued sinking. At one o’clock, Captain T. P. Halsey of the Steamship Louisiana ‘had fallen to the remarkable figure of 28.75.” He had never seen a lower reading. . . the wind was blowing at the rate of more than 100 miles per hour. . . Wave after wave washed against the cabin ports. At one point, a giant wave struck the ship from behind just as it slid into a valley between two other mountains of water. . . If was at this point that Halsey estimated the velocity of the wind at 150 miles per hour.
“The transformation was stunning. One moment, a nondescript tropical storm, the next, a hurricane of an intensity that no American alive had ever experienced. The storm did not grow through some gradual accretion of power; it exploded like something escaping from a cage. The Weather Bureau of 1900 had a code word for winds of 150 miles per hour–extreme–but no one in the Bureau seriously expected to use it.
“The storm had undergone an intensification known to late-twentieth century hurricanologists as “explosive deepening”. However, the Weather Bureau of Isaac’s time had no idea that such a dramatic change could occur. As the twentieth century closed, hurricane experts still did not understand what caused it.
“There were theories, however. For a storm to grow so quickly, some researchers proposed, it had to encounter an additional atmospheric force-an upper-level vortex, perhaps, or a fast air-stream that somehow set the storm spinning more and more rapidly.
“Hugh Willoughby, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Hurricane Research Division, proposed that “explosive deepening” could be caused when a storm passed over the “Loop Current”, a branch of the Gulf Stream that propels warm water through the Straits of Florida.
“The “Loop” may have been in place in the summer of 1900. The Gulf was hot to begin with because of ambient high temperatures and because so far in that season, there had been no other hurricanes to roil and cool the waters. . . ‘If a storm runs over the Loop’, Willoughby said, ‘it’s got essentially an infinite source of heat;”… Isaac’s Storm at pages 118-119.
Click link for Wikipedia Post: 1900 Galveston hurricane – Wikipedia
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