—Hurricanes, 1900 and 2005


The comparison of the aftermath of 2005 hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, Georgia, and Alabama with The storm which struck Galveston, Texas in 1900 is becoming inevitable, but for some reason it hasn’t happened yet. No one would have expected to ever see such devastation again. Modern satellite and aircraft reconaissance and computer-assisted prediction methods, together with incredible advances in transportation and communications technology would seem to make a repetition of the worst disaster in American history all but impossible.
The true loss of life in the 1900 Galveston hurricane was never known, but estimates range from 8000 to as many as 10,000 dead. The hurricane’s approach was predicted quite accurately, but both local officials and the general public dismissed the danger and stayed around to watch or go about their routine business as something just short of Hell on Earth descended on the island.
Earlier in one of the longest weeks in memory, public officials did everything imaginable to demand or beg people to leave the threatened coastline as a gigantic monster loomed in their modern radar and satellite images. For reasons which can only be guessed, thousands of people—including literate, mobile, otherwise apparently reasonable people—across the southeastern Gulf coast stayed in their homes—men, women, children, infants, dogs, and cats—as the monster fell upon them. According to both New Orleans Mayor Naglin and US Senator Landrieu, the death toll of the 2005 hurricane will also be in the thousands. Many more in the devastated areas are at risk from disease, lack of food and water, and exposure. Whether the numbers who died Moday morning and afterwards will ever be accurately known is not clear.
There are other ways, however, in which the two disasters are profoundly different. There is no record, for example, that anyone on Galveston Island in 1900, of any ethnic, religious, social, or economic background, stole guns and fired on those sent to rescue them.

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