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Hurricanes of the Past

Houston & Texas History
1915 Hurricane house damage

Wrecked houses submerged in sand on the east of Galveston on Seawall Boulevard after the 1915 hurricane.

The Texas Gulf Coast could use the rain that a small tropical system would bring, but the threat of a hurricane hitting the Houston-Galveston¬†area has likely — most would say, thankfully — passed for this year. Mid-September sees the peak activity of the Atlantic hurricane season, which officially ends on November 30.

Many people know about the famous Hurricane of 1900, which hit Galveston on September 8, 1900. This large, powerful storm was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people and holds the record as the deadliest natural disaster to ever strike the United States.

Photo of Murdoch's Bathhouse Wreckage

After the 1915 hurricane, pedestrians walk along the Seawall with wreckage from Murdoch's Bathhouse in the background.

Following the storm, in 1902 construction started on the Galveston Seawall, meant to protect the city from future storm surges. Additionally, the elevation of the island was raised by up to 17 feet.  These protective measures were tested in 1915, when on August 16 a devastating hurricane hit the island. In contrast to the 1900 storm, only 275 deaths were attributed to the 1915 hurricane. This low death toll, especially in contrast to the Hurricane of 1900, was attributed in large part to the protection given by the Seawall.

Photo of damange on Q Street

Damage from the 1915 hurricane is visible in this view down Q Street.

UH Special Collections has a collection of photographs of the 1915 storm’s damage. The photographs were taken by Rex Dunbar Frazier, an engineering representative called in to collect storm damage data and photographs. These photographs document the damage to streets, railroads and buildings and repairs in progress. The photographs can be viewed in the Special Collections Reading Room, or take a look at them in the UH Digital Library.