Texas’ 10 Worst Disastersby
Texas disasters are old news, but history offers lessons to those who take time
to seek them. |
A look at the most dire disasters
in the state’s history – a list that contains one disaster that happened long
before Texas was settled – shows that the worst disasters
are the ones that come without warning.
Today, of course, we know of a
hurricane’s approach for days in advance. Tornados form faster, but even with
those types of storms, weather forecasters and law enforcement usually are able
to warn citizens to take shelter. Consequently, the number of weather-related
fatalities has declined over the years. But early-day Texans were not as fortunate.
With the catastrophic Haitian earthquake very much in the news, it seems
like a good time to list Texas’ most devastating
events, from storms
to epidemics to plane crashes. Here, in order of severity in terms of loss of
life, are the 10 worst disasters in Texas history:
1. September 8,
An unnamed hurricane sweeps
Fatality estimates range from 8,000 to 12,000. This still stands as the worst
disaster in U.S. history in terms of lives lost.
|2. Summer 1867|
Yellow fever outbreak kills thousands in Texas. No
definite list of casualties has ever been compiled, but the epidemic ranks second
only to the 1900 Galveston hurricane in number
3. October-November 1918
“Spanish flu” pandemic
kills an estimated 20 million world-wide, a half-million in the United States
and several thousand in Texas. El
Paso, where the disease broke out first among soldiers at Fort Bliss, had
4. April 16, 1947
Explosion of SS Grandcamp at
the dock in Texas City, followed the next day by the explosion of the SS High
Flyer, kill at least 576 persons. Thousands are injured in Texas’
second-worst non-disease disaster.
5. March 18,
Leaking natural gas explodes in basement of New
London School in Rusk County. Of 600-plus students and teachers in the school
that day, 319 died in the explosion
and resulting building collapse. Incident still stands as the nation’s
worst school disaster.
6. September 14, 1919
strikes south of Corpus
Christi with 110 mph winds pushing a storm surge of 16 feet. The unnamed storm
takes 284 lives.
7. August 16-19, 1915
is again hit by a powerful hurricane. Storm kills 275 and results in more than
$56 million in property damage. Devastation would have been even worse but for
the seawall built to safeguard the city following the 1900
8. September 8-10, 1921
Triggered by a hurricane
that came ashore in Mexico, worst rainstorm
in Texas history results in the drowning of at least 215 people in Central
9. April 29, 1554
In Texas’ first historical disaster,
three Spanish ships laden with silver, gold and trade goods – the San Esteban,
the Espiritu Santo and the Santa Maria de Yciar – are washed ashore on South
Padre Island by a spring storm in the Gulf of Mexico. As many as 200 passengers
and crew members drown.
10. August 2, 1985
Delta Airlines Flight
191 crashes on approach at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, killing 135
passengers and crew and the driver of a car on State Highway 114. The crash ranks
thirteenth among the nation’s worst aviation disasters.
14 , 2010 column
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