The Great Galveston Storm of 1900
This barrier island along the gulf coast was home to millionaires and large elaborate mansions sprawling the coastline. The highest point of elevation being 8.7 feet above sea level, the community is ripe for devastation from a hurricane.
In the year 1900, this area was struck with a horrendous hurricane that would ultimately destroy the entirety of the community and kill an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 people.
The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire
The infamous San Francisco Earthquake and subsequent fire that ravaged the city on April 18th, 1906 will forever be a reminder of the type of destruction that could result from an earthquake.
The 7.9 magnitude earthquake that rattled the San Andreas Fault leveled more than 28,000 buildings and killed an estimated 3,000 people. The fire that was caused by this earthquake burned approximately 500 city blocks worth of buildings and continued to burn for nearly 3 days. Extinguishing this fire was nearly impossible as the water pipes throughout the city were ruptured, halting the fire crews’ water supply.
The Johnstown Flood
In 1889, near Johnstown in central Pennsylvania, a dam that was containing Lake Conemaugh broke delivering a tsunami-like wave of water hurtling towards the town.
In a matter of minutes this dam failure wiped 1,600 homes off their foundations and down stream, and a total of 2,209 people were dead.
The Peshtigo Fire
The Peshtigo Fire started on October 8th, 1871, the same day as the great Chicago fire. The fires ravaged a staggering 1.5 million acres of drought stricken vegetation throughout the Midwest.
When the events were over and the smoke had settled, an estimated 2500 people had perished from the blazed.
The initial damage and reported lives lost from preliminary inspections gave US citizens hope that the damages from this hurricane would not be too severe, but this was a terrible mistake.
In the months following, Harvard public health researchers that visited the island chain challenged the number of 64 deaths. These individuals conducted a survey of nearly 3,299 individual households throughout the community. The resulting “excess death” count was totaled at 4,645 making Maria the second deadliest hurricane in US history behind the Galveston Storm.
*There is wide variation in death estimates for this specific hurricane. We chose to use the estimate published in the New England Journal of Medicine that was done in the aftermath.