A. Attention-getter: How many of you feel safe in your homes or know that if a natural disaster struck you would be able to make it out alive?
B. Audience Relevance: Due in large part to the early warning systems we have in place today, we can avoid the vast majority of natural disasters in a way that previous generations could not.
C. Speaker Credibility: As a resident of Houston, Texas, I grew up hearing the tales of some of the major Hurricanes that had zeroed in on our coastal region and left it in shambles. In 2008, Hurricane Ike, one of the most destructive hurricanes in Texas history, knocked out power to over 2. million people. The storm caused a 14-foot surge and over 18 inches of rainfall. Before the day was over Ike had claimed 84 lives and 19. 3 billion dollars in damage. That storm was one of the most terrifying experiences in my life. Life after the storm was no better. The heat was oppressive, the cleanup monstrous, and the weeklong lack of electricity humbling.
Thesis/Preview: Hurricanes like Audrey, who hit the Texas coast on June 27, 1957; killing over 350 people and costing over 700 million dollars in damage.
Hurricane Gilbert, who hit the coast on September 16, 1988, spawned 29 tornadoes, killed over 318, and cost between 40-50 million dollars to clean-up. These types of storms are commonplace for those of us that have lived in the warm coastal regions along the Southern United States. Though these statistics may seem astounding, none quite measure up to what the Island experienced on September 8, 1900. Transition Statement- Known as the Great Galveston Hurricane, this storm would become known as the worst natural disaster to strike America in recorded history.
Main Point #1: In another time, in another place the storm of 1900 might just have been something else altogether. In fact it may not have been news worthy at all. Instead, the precise combination of conditions became the ingredients that would rip the people of Galveston’s lives through a maelstrom of wind, water, and death. The burden of this disaster fell heavily on the shoulders of a man named Isaac Cline.
1. Isaac Cline was the head of the U. S. Weather Bureau in Galveston in 1900. He would have been the first line of defense against any major meteorological events.
2. The book, “Isaac’s Storm: A Man, A Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History by Erik Larson,” details not only the harrowing tales of Isaac and other Galveston residents who weathered the storm, but delves further into the issues that left Galveston unprepared that late Summer’s day.
3. At the turn of the twentieth century, Americans were especially confident in their technology and mastery over the natural world, that many felt that inclement and dangerous weather could be predicted so accurately that there was no need to fear.
These attitudes in combination with a series of political problems within the Weather Bureau led to the ignoring of warnings from Cuban meteorologists regarding the storm. In an effort not to cause panic, no warning was given to Galveston residents of the storm until it was too late. The lack of warning combined with Galveston’s misfortune of being very near the eye of the hurricane and being hit by the storm at a 90° angel, left the city vulnerable to the storm’s full force. Transition: A combination of pride and ignorance would lead to the loss of more than 6,000 lives and left 8,000 homeless.
Main Point #2: Regardless of the late warning that the citizens of Galveston received the main problem lay in how the city was built.
1. Casey Edward Greene, Head of Special Collections at the Rosenberg Library in Galveston, Texas informed me that, “one of the major contributors that made this storm such a disaster is the extreme low elevation of the area. In fact, Galveston Island and most Galveston County are widely known to have very little rise in elevation, as is Houston and other areas on the Gulf Coast. At the time of the storm the elevations for Galveston County ranged from 0 to 41 feet. ”
2. The most common causes of flooding during hurricanes are storm surges. An understanding of storm surges is important since the damage caused to Galveston by the 1900 hurricane was largely due to a storm surge. In fact, the storm surge recorded during the 1900 hurricane in Galveston is the highest tide measured on the open coast in Texas in the past 100 years.
3. Although, storm surge is given credit for the majority of the evastation, the winds speeds cannot be overlooked either. In fact, before the anemometer blew away Isaac Cline clocked the winds at just over 100 mph, but went on record in subsequent interviews that in his belief the wind speeds reached somewhere between 130-140 mph. Transition: Among the stories of death and destruction there lies one of the most poignant stories of dedication of all time. The sisters of Saint Mary’s orphanage are the most honored and remembered heroes among those from this tragedy.
Their story of hope, strength, and sacrifice is remember every eighth day in September, with a moment of prayer and the singing of the hymn, ‘Queen of the Waves’
1. An article in the New York Times, titled, “As Hurricane Ike Lashed Galveston, a Memory of the Great Storm of 1900” retells the story of the ten sisters and 93 children who were trapped as the hurricane approached and the waters swelled and left the orphanage surrounded.
2. The sister’s herded the children into the chapel, where the Mother Superior began to tie lengths of clothesline around themselves and to the children. They formed small chains of nuns and children. To help calm the children while they weathered the storm they sang a favorite hymn of the children’s, “Queen of the Waves. ”
3. As the water continued to rise the sisters moved the children to higher ground within the building. As they ascended the stairs they heard a great clash of brick and board giving way as the orphanage was devoured by the gulf. It ran through the building like a ravenous animal, hunting and taking until nothing was left and the entire building was in ruins. In total all 10 nuns and 90 of the 93 children in the orphanage perished.
The line the mother superior had hoped would be their lifeline had become entangled in the mass of debris and had instead sealed their fate.
A. Signify End: As long as there are tragedies like this one, there will be men and women who dedicate their lives to give us, the public a fighting chance.
B. Review: We are lucky that today we have better early warning systems, stricter building codes, and disaster plans in place of emergencies like this one.
C. Memorable End: So the next time you feel snug and warm in your life, remember that in the blink of an eye it can all be swept away.
Works Cited “As Hurricane Ike Lashed Galveston, a Memory of the Great Storm of 1900. ” New York Times 14 Sept. 2008, Week in Review sec. : n. pag. Academic Search Premier. Web. 26 Oct. 2012. Greene, Casey. “FAQ about the Galveston Storm. ” Galveston and Texas History Center. Texas State Library and Archives Commission, n. d. Web. 24 Oct. 2012. . “Greene, Casey, Head of Special Collections. ” Telephone interview. 26 Oct. 2012. Larson, Erik, and Isaac Monroe Cline. Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History. New York: Crown, 1999. Print.