Galveston Hurricane of 1900 and Hurricane Carla

Airdate: September 27

This is Living Stories, featuring voices from the collections of the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. I'm Louis Mazé.

Texans living near the Gulf Coast often cast a nervous eye on the weather during hurricane season, aware of past devastating storms.

In a 1979 interview, Frank Booker of Independence recalls the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 as his family experienced it in the Angleton area. On the day the storm hit, Booker's father had gone to town:

"He was up there getting some hands to pick cotton. And while he was there, the news come over that the storm wind was blowing forty miles an hour in Galveston. And he come back, and he began to pick up what cotton pickers had picked that day. After the storm, just wasn't nothing there. The bolls and all were stripped. The wind had blew it all off."

Booker remembers weathering the storm in the family home:

"It was just like a horseshoe and you open it/in your opening(??). The rest of it was timber. We had some cotton pickers out there, and the weather—the wind was blowing; the windows were coming out of the house. And Daddy called them in, said, ‘Y'all come in here.' So they come in there and spent the night in the house with us. It was a two-story house. And before—my daddy said if it hadn't been for that timber, that house would been blown all to pieces. And I remember that house rocking. That's one of the things I remember. Part of the blocks—there's wooden blocks—had floated out on one side. And then the wind would carry it and then it lull and it come back, just bump. Then it would blow it over again. But it stood the storm."

Interviewer: "So it was able to give some."

"Yeah. And houses at Angleton blew away for five miles."

Robert C. Martin was manager of Radio Station KNAL in Victoria in 1961, a year another powerful hurricane hit the Texas coast. He explains how one of his announcers, Charlie Lewis, handled the storm:

"When [Hurricane] Carla came through—a big storm. It hit Victoria directly, Port Lavaca. And so we were, of course, covering that as best we could. And Charlie, he called and said, ‘I can take it awhile out here if you people want to rest awhile.' And I said, ‘That's a good idea, Charlie.' So we threw the broadcast feed out to Charlie with his remote studio. And during that time, a little old lady called me. She was frightened to death—at the height of the storm. Things are—roofs flying off. It was bad. She said, ‘Mr. Martin, I think it would be good if you all played a hymn.' And I said, ‘That's a good idea. I'll call Charlie, see if he can handle it.' So I did, and Charlie said, ‘I'll take care of it.' The song he played was ‘I'll Fly Away.' (laughter) That's the kind of character he was. He took the serious things lightly and the light things seriously."

According to the Hurricane Severity Index, Carla is the most intense land-falling Atlantic hurricane in the U.S. But fortunately, hurricane monitoring and warning measures had greatly advanced since the Galveston Hurricane, allowing residents to prepare.

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