Star-Gazette from Elmira, New York on September 4, 2000 · 5
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Star-Gazette from Elmira, New York · 5

Elmira, New York
Issue Date:
Monday, September 4, 2000
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NATION Star-Gazette, Monday. September 4. 2000 5A A century ago, hurricane left thousands dead Galveston to honor victims of nation's deadliest natural disaster. By MARK BABINECK The Associated Press GALVESTON, Texas The hurricane struck by surprise, decimating this island city, killing thousands and sweeping entire neighborhoods clean. Linda MacDonald's late grandfather lived through the Great Storm a century ago this week and told her unforgettable stories. Just 6 when the winds and water crashed through, he rode out the tempest in his father's bakery. "He could hear children calling for their mothers, women screaming for help and men begging for mercy from God," said MacDonald, a Galveston native and an amateur expert on the storm. "He said he could hear sounds that were very faint, then they grew louder and louder, then the sound abruptly cut off, and he knew someone's life had ended." No one knows the storm's toll for sure. Between 6,000 and 10,000 people died on the island and nearby mainland. The lower figure is more than double the combined loss of life in the Johnstown Flood in Pennsylvania, the Great Chicago Fire and the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, making the Great Storm of Sept. 8, 1900, the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history. The city will honor the victims with ceremonies this weekend. Plaques mark the buildings that survived; a harborside slide show and exhibits will examine the aftermath of the hurricane rated by researchers today as a Category 4 on the 5-point Saffir-Simpson Scale. "My grandfather said it's important for people to know about the 1900 storm, because every night before you go to bed you tell your family you love them," MacDonald said. "Then the next morning, if you're lucky enough to still have your house and family around you, you get down on your knees and thank God." In 1900, Galveston was a commercial giant, home to Texas' first post office, telephones and medical college. Its streets led to imposing Greek Revival, Romanesque and Italianate mansions. Downtown was packed with ornate office buildings, many on The Strand, known then as the "Wall Street of the Southwest." A booming cotton export trade had made this city of 38,000 among the wealthiest per capita in the United States. Shippers knew Galveston was vulnerable to the whims of nature, but they had little choice: The city boasted the only deep-water port in Texas. "Remember, in 1900 there is no Houston Ship Channel," said historian Patricia Bixel, a co-author of "Galveston and the 1900 Storm," released this summer. At least 10 times in the 19th century, hurricanes struck the barrier island, which was inhabited first by Karankawa Indians, then pirate Jean Lafitte's band before American settlers arrived in 1838. An 1875 "overflow," the understated term islanders used for tidal flooding, first prompted calls for a beachfront wall. Talk of a breakwater resumed briefly after an 1886 hur- 361 Maple Ave., Elmira- 607-734-9547 TIER T71 SENTRY HARDWARE m VJl mery lnftustrial Supply fcfcVtl 1371 College Ave., Elmira SENTRY (607)733-7745 'V RETAIL WHOLESALE Mort - Sat 7:30ain til 6pm; Closed Sunday Hand Blown Glass Candles 1 246 W. Church St., Elmira 607-732-2029 To subscribe for home delivery of the newspaper, call 734-2525 or 1-800-836-8970 Weekdays 6-4 Weekends 6- 1 or subscribe onHns si Cwmr MMry Mb Pm WttX 7-CMy $3.50 e-0$2.4S S-Sua-$2.10 Sunday-1. 75 Moor Roof ffm Pk Wm: 7-Day $3.7S -0y2.S Stt -Sun.' $2.15 Sunday- $1.80 TnOud HoWdffy edtttor of mfy rdy and MnlM W $1?7 40 tor 26 n M; S2S 46 tor 5 nyar S140 MlorM. S243 00toron S2e41k 173 40 K 13 S2B8ZIOTS Star-Gazette HM MM St 0 mm MS E- NY ricane erased Indianola to the southwest But concern quickly faded each time, and no action was taken. In early September 1900, U.S. Weather Bureau climatologist Isaac Cline knew a storm in the Gulf of Mexico had raked Cuba. Noting Galveston's falling barometric pressure, he suspected it would land near the 30-mile-long island. On Sept 7, Cline hoisted a red and black flag signaling a tropical storm was looming, but he paired it with a white one indicating it probably would land east of town, sparing the city its brunt Joseph Cline, Isaac's brother and a fellow weatherman, awoke before dawn Sept. 8 to find their yard flooded. Water kept rising despite strengthening north winds that should have repelled the storm. TSuch high water with opposing winds never observed previously," Isaac Cline wrote in a telegram to Washington. The brothers continued to send dispatches until the last communications line snapped at mid-afternoon. Isaac Cline's frantic warnings and the threatening skies sent many to higher ground, although the city's highest point was only 9 feet. Others ignored the calls, playing in the surf or taking refuge in frame homes raised slightly above ground level. In his recent book, "Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time and the Deadliest Hurricane in History," author Erik Larson took Cline and the Weather Bureau to task for failing to be better prepared for the dangerous storm spinning offshore. However, most longtime residents had weathered storms and likely would not have fled to the mainland. In any case, residents were hemmed in by 2 p.m. as flooding prevented trains or carriages from even reaching the four bridges over the bay. Tides raged inward from both the gulf and the bay. Homes disintegrated and rushing waters swept people away. Strengthening winds began to tear slate shingles and launch them and other debris with fatal results. The island was submerged by 3 p.m. Chaos intensified as people scrambled for cover, besieged by a 15V4-foot storm surge. Currents obliterated the Sisters of Charity seaside orphanage, killing all 10 nuns and 90 of the 93 children. Three boys escaped a collapsing dormitory and clung to an uprooted tree. "The sisters and children went to the second story as the waters of the gulf filled the first floor," MacDonald said. "The sisters then tied the young orphans to their own bodies with the rope in a valiant, yet sacrificial effort to protect them." One of the nuns was later found still lashed to several children. Daring rescues continued into the darkness. Joseph Corthell and his brothers pulled more than 200 into their skiff; a nun at the Ursuline Convent tied a rope around her waist, swam into the surf and signaled her sisters to pull her in each time she grabbed a victim. The worst of the storm was over by 10 p.m. But the horror had only begun. A mild Sunday morning revealed unspeakable destruction. Block ' : II DIRECTORY , .... . ... -A, arnot ogden health on demand Community Health Information Line 737.4499 or1.800.952.A0MC Chemung Canal Trust Company At the Center of Your Community local news sports classified marketplace cars obs twin tt -4. : J. t - it tut A September 1900 photo shows by a surprise hurricane. upon block of beachfront was permanently submerged. At least one in six citizens was dead, mortally injured or hopelessly trapped. Tides had piled wreckage two stories high. "The wall of debris mowed down anything in its path," MacDonald said. "But when it stopped it acted as a dike, protecting the houses in front of it." American Red Cross founder Clara Barton, who was 78, made organizing relief in Galveston her last mission of mercy. When she saw that black residents were being denied the same access to aid as whites, she quickly set up a segregated system to ensure all were assisted. The initial death toll was estimated at 1,000. It quickly multiplied as bodies were pulled from trees, wrested from wreckage and fished out of Galveston Bay. There were too many to bury properly, so officials tried weighing down hundreds of corpses and depositing them in the gulf. They floated back. Disposing of the dead, treating the injured, sheltering the homeless, clearing debris and replacing roughly 2,600 wrecked houses was a big enough job, but officials knew they had to do more. The first task was to build the long-proposed seawall. Three miles long, 16 feet thick at its base and 17 feet above mean low tide, the first phase took two years to build for a then-mindboggling $1.6 million. Lengthened six times since, it protected Galveston against several 20th century hurricanes. It remains the only barrier between the city and the gulf. Raising Galveston's elevation to make it more than a glorified sand- ature's Own n Meows Arnot Mall Education For Career Excellence CCFL College Center 01 The Fingerlakes 22 W. Third Street Corning 607.974.7901 INSURANCE Best Passible Coverage, Best Possible Price 34 W. Market St., Corning, NY (607) 937-8371 e-mail: sprague( Hi ... 'i .V .- IK:,, it. 1 .w K Wfc. - . The Associated Press what's left in a large part of Galveston, Texas, after the city was hit 1 A f t Beach-goers walk down the steps of the Galveston seawall, built two years after the island was devastated by the Great Storm of 1900. The 17-foot tall seawall has protected the island city from several major storms. bar was a tougher fix. Over six years, crews dredged sand from offshore, hauled it via temporary canals and elevated 500 blocks, sector by sector, sloping from the top of the seawall down toward the bay. Thousands of structures were jacked up to varying heights so earth could be filled in underneath. Citizens entered their homes and businesses using makeshift catwalks that crisscrossed the city. What city fathers could not repair was Galveston's destiny. Four months after the storm, the Spindletop strike brought oil to Texas. While Galveston focused on rebuilding, nearby Houston was constructing a ship channel to complement its rail hub and offering space to develop what would become the world's largest petrochemical - Howls - and Growls 739-283411 m.Ujtw r UUU Better health is just a click away 607-937-7200 MANSFIELD Fy3 UNIVERSin mHM . -.- l S ! ! I I f'' I. tiers homes special sections time out 5 t -JeW :,7:v $rFisz ' The Associated Press complex. Galveston slowly evolved into a seaside tourist town. The Strand buildings that once housed banking moguls and cotton traders are filled with bars and outlet stores. The harbor is better known for seafood than seafarers. ELMIRA GYMNASTICS CLUB 828 Erie St., KM 6 Time State Champions! Classes Begin Thurs., Sept. 7th, 1999 For more information call 732 Si Qb progressive 0 POWERSPORT fe I MOTORCYCLE SALES 531 SEP ( orniiu Building Co. V:f4Ji:UWJll'f:ttgM-l!i?e! Langdon Plaza Church St, Elmira 732-3647 or 732-3746 WWW. VINCENZOSPIZZA.COM links to dotcom directory advertisers I Tire maker, union talks continue By KARIN MILLER The Associated Press NASHVILLE, Tenn. -Marathon talks between Bridge-stoneFirestone and union negotiators stretched into Sunday as both sides tried to avert a strike by more than 8,400 workers. Employees at nine tire plants remained poised to strike at a moment's notice. "There was no extension signed. It's just hour to hour, minute by minute," said Garry Manning, president of the United Steelworkers of America's Local 1055 in LaVergne. He cautioned that the union "could pull the plug at any time." The negotiators have been meeting continuously since the union indefinitely postponed a strike deadline Friday night. A company spokeswoman said Sunday that the tone of the talks was constructive. "Negotiators were at the bargaining table through the night and report continued progress," Christine Karbowiak said. "Talks continue today to resolve outstanding issues. We are w orking diligently to reach tentative agreements that are acceptable to all parties." Union and company officials declined to say what remains to be worked out in the contract talks. Previously, the union has said the two sides couldn't agree on mandatory overtime, seniority rights, and pension and insurance changes. The strike postponement was welcome news to the beleaguered BridgestoneFirestone Inc., which has increased its production after recalling 6.5 million tires under investigation in 88 U.S. deaths. The federal government also issued a Labor Day weekend warning that an additional 1.4 million tires might have problems. The Nashville-based company has said a strike would have minimal impact on production. Most of its replacement tires are being made at nonunion plants or a Canadian factory covered by a separate union contract. BridgestoneFirestone has 28 U.S. plants. Elmira - 5760 COMPUTER CORP. 228 W. 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