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Friday, September 30, 2005

Life In These United States

A family cries because the million-dollar house they built in dry grasslands just burned up in the annual wildfires. This just happened in California.

A man complains because the photos he left in an office 15 feet below the water level were destroyed in a flood. This just happened in New Orleans.

A woman breaks down over the loss of her mobile home in the annual hurricanes of southern Florida. This happens every year.

Friends mourn the loss of a friend who chain-smoked for decades. Their friend died of lung cancer. This happens every day in every city.

What keeps these people from thinking? What is it that prohibits otherwise educated humans from pondering the obvious? All of these losses involve causes that are very, very easy to spot. The events that brought about each loss were as easy to spot as an adult elephant standing in the middle of a small room.

Is there an adult living in California unaware of the annual fire hazards in the hills?

Who does not know that hurricanes regularly strike Florida?

What person living next to a wall of water really does not expect a flood some day?

When an earthquake crumbles a city in California who can honestly say they were surprised that it happened?

When another hurricane rips into a wooden home in the southern U.S. will that be a total surprise to anyone living there?

When tornados come ripping up the land in Kansas, or anywhere in the Midwest, is that really a shocker, a totally unexpected event?


It is apparent that many people live their lives ignoring the plain truth about where and how they live. This ignorance seems to be as infectious as a virus and many times more deadly. When people living in hazardous places are asked why, they respond, "I do not want to live anywhere else." When people who smoke cigarettes are asked why they choose to slowly kill themselves they respond, "It feels good to smoke, I like it!" or "I tried to stop but I cannot."

The Puerto Ricans build steel-reinforced homes strong enough to withstand hurricanes. Some people in the Midwest build tornado shelters. The Japanese build only earthquake-resistant buildings. The Dutch build real defenses against the most severe floods. Every day some people do quit smoking. There are ways to use our intelligence to reduce the risks we face in life.

Given all the talk about freedom it is amazing how many free people in the United States choose to live dangerously. It seems that people would rather stand unprotected in the face of deadly events every year instead of having more years to spend with their precious families. "To hell with the children's future, let's live on an earthquake fault line." "Give me a cigarette, I have no desire to know my grandchildren someday." "Old age is not worth living for. I want to live where the floods are sure to get me soon, the thought of drowning is really quite pleasant."

Nevertheless, when the earthquakes shudder, the floods come, the winds pick up or the cancer strikes; some people do run. When faced with imminent death most people suddenly wise up, get in their cars, and go sit in a traffic jam. The smokers with cancer go cry before a doctor, pleading for a quick cure. The flood victims demand help from everyone, they feel they deserve it. After all, they chose to live in a place 100% guaranteed to flood, everyone must remain ready to help them rebuild in that flood zone. The government gave them flood or fire insurance when no sensible company would insure that kind of risk. The taxpayers, the stupid taxpayers, must pay up, even if it means borrowing more money from China.

Do not blame the leaders of this nation for any of this. They need your votes and the cash contributions from the tobacco and insurance companies. They are elected to start wars and waste tax money. Politicians are not elected to solve problems. It is the job of leaders to create bigger problems and push more people into poverty. That is why more than half the citizens do not even bother to vote in elections. We are too free to be bothered to go vote for leaders that might help us with our problems.

All the people living in poverty are simply glad to have a huge discount store built in their town. It is wonderful to have a new business that does not pay employees a living wage. It sure is fun to work for peanuts, plus they offer health insurance nobody can afford to buy. What a deal! Why vote to change this wonderful life?

The way so many people choose to their lives in this nation makes no sense if you stop to think about it. Everywhere you look you see people showing signs of total insanity, with no indication of any desire to elect leaders that might make their lives better.

What would be really great is to chain-smoke, work at a discount store and live in a trailer in southern Florida. If the cigarettes do not kill you the hurricanes or the job just might do the trick. The crooked politicians make certain no problems get solved. It is so great to live the free life in America, who would want to live anywhere else like Norway?

Monday, September 26, 2005

Freedom Never Was

Are you free this afternoon? Can you do or say anything you want without fear? Leaders of nations use the word freedom carefully. Kings and dictators avoid any reference to freedom of speech or freedom of the press. Those ideas could lead subjects to think they are free to choose the next leader in an election. Freedom is not something any man in power really likes to talk about.

In the United States the word freedom is used frequently. Freedom is used in speeches, freedom is written many times in documents like the United States Constitution. Freedom is etched into slogans on government buildings. Ask most U.S. citizens if they live in a free country or if they are free. They will invariably say, "Yes, I live in a free country, I am free."

When they say "freedom" most U.S. citizens are talking about concepts like freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom to vote for anyone or being free to choose to how to live their lives without someone else ordering them to do something they do not want to do.

In truth, most people living anywhere in this world, including the U.S.A. are not free. The few "liberties" some people believe they "enjoy" are in fact grand lies they have been carefully programmed to believe.

To begin looking at "freedoms" consider Freedom of the Press. Can you get anything you write printed in a big city newspaper? Will your small town paper print something you write? If you work for a newspaper can you write anything you want? If you are not rich or powerful or supporting the people in power you can forget about freedom of the press.

Now you think, at least you can read any book you want to read. No, you can read only any books the government, churches and the rich publishers allow printed and placed in bookstores. You can go to the library and read any book there. Remember this, since 2001, the government is keeping a list of the books you read at the library. Government leaders now have the power to force librarians to tell them what books you are reading.

You are free to go anywhere and read anything you want on the Internet, right? In some countries, yes, but the governments is watching what you do and keeping files on any person it considers "suspicious." In other countries many Internet sites are simply blocked by the rich and powerful. Even in free countries they use your freedom to find cause to jail you.

The recent popularity of blogs, public journals on the Internet such as this one, gives some people the illusion of true freedom of the press. However, most ideas now expressed in blogs are reaching only a very small percentage of the people around the world. Loss of control over even one percent of the population scares the rich and powerful. People with power and money are now working very hard to find ways to control and regulate blogs. Rich people are the only ones permitted freedom of the press on any scale in the world. The rich need this control to keep fooling people into giving them more money in return for trash. This trick is called advertising.

Freedom of religion? Do not talk about your religion at work, you will lose your job. Do not talk about religion on a street corner, people will have you placed in a hospital for people with mental illness. Do not disagree out loud with what the minister at your church tells you. You will not be allowed to attend that church, synagogue or temple any longer. Do not try to write a story about your religion and get that published in a public paper. You will be pilloried in the public square.

In many families children or even adults cannot even mention the idea of going to a different temple or church next Sunday. You can only believe what you are told to believe as a child. As an adult, if you have very different spiritual beliefs than the other people in your town you better keep quiet about it. If you really express any freedom with regard to religion, anywhere in the world, expect to lose the freedom to associate with most other people. In some nations you will be put to death. In all other nations you can expect not to be invited back to that party.

You think you are free to vote? Sure you are free to vote for one very rich businessman or another powerful wealthy person. Would a poor man have any chance in the next election? When was the last time you heard about a poor person running for any office higher than perhaps town council? Most town councils are even controlled by the people with the most money.

You are free to spend your money anywhere you want to, after you pay more and more taxes to the rich congressmen and President. Be sure he will waste all of that money on weapons to kill, fine wine and meats, not clean water or medicine to heal. When the leaders have spent your taxes they will borrow more money from the communist dictators. They all play the game of human torture now. They are free to beat men to death and bomb babies.

You are free to go anywhere you want, if you keep giving more and more money to the very rich oil barons. You are free to spout pollution into the atmosphere, heating Earth to death.

You are free to buy a house anywhere racist real estate agents let you buy a house, once you sign over your life earnings to the greedy local banker.

Freedom starts to look like something you can have only if you are evil enough and rich enough. Only the cold-blooded killers are free and they use that freedom to exploit the less fortunate.

You are free to work in any career you want to, right? Wrong, you can only work where the rich let you have a job. These jobs must help to make one person very rich and pay the other people working there as little as possible. You are free to be tossed out the factory door at the slightest whim of some rich man in the back office.

There is no freedom anywhere in this world. There is only a world with strict rules you must follow or else you will be put in prison or starved to death. Follow the rules that make the rich richer and the poor poorer. Do that or expect to die homeless on a steam vent. There is no freedom of any kind anywhere in this world, only rules, very strict rules. Follow the rules carefully or die as a result of your actions. This is the "civilization" we have developed over so many centuries. It still bears close resemblance to the jungle that spawned it.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Unbearable Pain of Injustice

The days grow shorter as the end of one more year approaches. There is a feeling of pain shooting through life right now. It even hurts just to be sensitive to the impending loss. It is not the leaves falling early from the late summer drought. It is not the unexplained pain shooting though an arm and shoulder. Someone close is in such pain that the future holds no promise. The many poor people in the classroom today harbored more hurt than most can imagine. Nearby today a hundred thousand cried out in pain for the mothers of dead soldiers. Yet, none of these manifestations were the source of the pain I feel right now.

Mountain Village of Ossanite 00004

The trees will blossom once more next year, branches need no sympathy. My physical pain will go away, if not from healing then from my body's passing. My mother's back has tormented her for so many years it amounts only to so much ongoing torture. The poor in the classroom were at least making progress, learning a new career. The loss of an army to the whims of a few despots drunk with power is nothing new. No, my pain comes from a different source. It is a hurt born of mass ignorance, greed, and insensitivity. A society that has learned only how to inflict ongoing torment on the greater world around it makes me writhe in agony.

Each day millions of Americans just suck and suck and gnaw at the nerves of a world dying of hunger. With each person consuming ten times the resources of people in poor nations, the citizens of the United States pile injury on insult. Wreaking havoc on traumatized Middle Eastern towns, raping the equatorial forests and crushing the Third World farmers is how the United States brings unbearable pain to the rest of the world. Whatever the war and economic machines leave unscathed the searing garbage culture of Hollywood and corporate greed smother. Finally, the stupid citizens gnaw on their bones while somewhere in the world a million babies starve for lack of mother's milk. A mother's breast is empty because there was no nutritious food for her to eat today, or yesterday.

In the streets of California and New York the dogs get fat while in Burundi and Niger babies bloat. It hurts so bad because there is not a soul in the United States that seems willing to look beyond their well-manicured but fruitless lawns.


I am alone, out of work again for a few months, resisting the insult of WalMart, Kmart or pizza delivery jobs. Letting a billionaire exploit my sweat for pennies just seems like the final defeat. There is a driving desire in me to relieve the pain lived by my neighbors in Africa, Asia, Haiti and the Third World, all sucked almost lifeless. A reader sitting in any developed Western nation must be laughing uncontrollably at the mere folly of the suggestion that one man could make a difference. "There is nothing that can be done, let them suffer and save only yourself!" one friend implores me.

Butterfly 15420

I cannot believe that I am but a butterfly in a cyclone, that the flap of my small wings has no impact.

I have prepared for too long, in too many unique ways, to believe my mission is only to sit in this chair and feel the pain. There is far more I can do to bring justice to the trampled, I know it for certain. Behind some torn curtain, under some tattered rug, tucked under fallen limbs, a greater solution waits patiently. My impatience is part of the driving force seeking to uncover that solution and bring it out into the light of day. A flap of my wings beside the Chesapeake is not enough to shake the leaves of ignorance in Washington. "Throw off this discouragement and arise like a fire that burns all before it" my old friend suggests, "The wise grieve not for those who live; and they grieve not for those who die – for life and death shall pass away. Because we all have been for all time…and we all shall be for all time, we all for ever and ever."

Somehow his words do not still the outrage at deliberate human injustices on a global scale. The balance is too slow in coming. I flap my wings once again. Another leaf flutters to the ground outside my window.

Rothrock State Forest, PA 01160

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Importance of Community Involvement

When I worked in the Third World we would occasionally issue "micro loans" to deserving mothers. This would be a loan for perhaps $150 US dollars to an enterprising mother. The woman would use the loan to buy vegetables or some other commodity in bulk. This product would be sold in a local market for a small but consistent profit. The money from that sale would be used to buy more product at wholesale and that product would be sold. The woman was required to have a business plan and proven ability to manage a small stall at market. Over a period of time the initial "microloan" would be paid off, sometimes in installments of as little as $5 a week. In many cases the women paid off the loan quite early, after only a few months. This money would then be loaned out to other women for the same purposes. This was years before the global World Bank discovered the significance of such a simple technique.

For the men I would give out a small sack of high-quality seed soybeans. The men could only have the soybeans if they proved they had a place to plant the beans. The men also had to be married and living with their wife. It was also important that the couple had children. The gift of soybeans was accompanied by a lesson in organic farming and given out only around the correct time of the month and year for planting. The beans were a gift from my Uncle Allen, a soybean farmer and speculator.

The rich, riding in giant four-wheel drives, drive past these people quickly. Tinted windows make it difficult to see those living in squalor. They try not to drive in these neighborhoods but it becomes necessary as the ghettos expand.

To people living in developed Western nations the significance of $150 or a sack of soybeans cannot be comprehended. People in the United States or northern Europe can earn $150 in a few days and easily spend it on a new coat or groceries for the next two weeks. In rural India or Haiti $150 is more than a person might ever see at one time in years. In local currency it was the equivalent of 5,000 rupees or gourd. It allowed certain people to start a business, that is those who were responsible and understood how to manage such a sum. Older people, married people, or people with children to feed were likely to carry out a business plan and pay back the loan. There really was no other way to determine a person's reliability, the poor often do not own any property other than a cooking pot and a change of clothes.

Today in the United States there is a growing class of people in need of the most basic assistance. They are raising children alone, working one or two jobs and yet still falling behind. The bills get a month and then two months behind. Corporations feed on these people like lions at a carcass. The late fees and interest payments accumulate, there are cut-off notices for essential utilities, landlords charge additional overdue payment fees. In order to reconnect the utilities higher deposits and high connection fees are charged. All of the late payment history is kept in credit reports for years to be used to judge the poor and to charge them higher interest rates. Health insurance is not provided to the poor, they must hope they qualify for substandard government health care programs if sickness arises.

The rich, riding in giant SUVs, drive past these people quickly. Tinted windows make it difficult to see those living in squalor. The rich build highways through the poor neighborhoods, this sometimes makes it necessary to pass by such scenes of hardship.

Rich people do not clearly understand the idea of community. It means more than a small donation to charity at tax time. Community means more than an hour in some house of worship each week. It is not enough to place old clothes in a box and leave it at a collection center. If poverty is going to be reversed there is a greater need to take a larger risk.

The risk may be extending a small loan to a responsible single mother. The risk may be hiring someone who does not wear new clothes. The chance may involve driving the car into the ghetto and teaching people a better way. It is a gamble more rich people must be willing to take if the entire community is to survive. If not enough rich reach down to the less fortunate the class divisions will soon shatter the peace for all. The sharp edges of a completely broken society will cut all members, rich and poor alike. This day fast approaches in America.

Friday, September 23, 2005

A Walk Through Town ( or Fighting Reality)

Walking through the nearby town is such a lesson. There are run-down row homes with $750,000 price tags on them. Homes with the special allure of being located in the area flooded by the storm surge two years ago. Every block has another new home under construction. The popular thing is to purchase two small homes, tear them down and build one huge McMansion. The big houses already completed tower over the little homes that have existed for decades. They seem to threaten these little houses just like the big SUVs out front threaten the little cars next door.

All these homes are built in an area prone to flooding with only a two foot rise in water level. Storms on the nearby bay have inundated this area many times throughout the local history. People do not study history so the chance of flooding does not matter. The big new homes have insurance issued by the federal government so that people in Kansas and Iowa will pay to repair damage from the next flood. The people living in these big homes are wealthy enough to convince a banker that they can make payments on the house, but everyone will cry out loud if nature takes it away.

They drive to their homes and work one person at a time in big trucks. Each driver hangs a cigarette out the window until they get close to home. At that point they toss the lit cigarette in the street. Nothing to worry about, they have fire insurance and health insurance. If they set a house on fire or get lung cancer the cautious people that live in Nebraska and Wisconsin will help pay the bills. Insurance makes it easy to forget about lung cancer and house fires.

The people in the big houses drive too fast on the narrow streets in town. They just drove up the street to buy more cigarettes and alcohol. Walking to the store is out of the question, they would never think of doing that when gasoline is only $3.25 per gallon. Maybe when fuel gets to $4.00 a gallon they will drive a little slower to go get cigarettes and whiskey.

As they get out of the big trucks they drive, each person struggles. It is not easy to move around when you are so obese. Luckily they only need to walk a few feet to the front door. They press a button and the door to their garage comes down automatically. There is no need for exercise at all.

The poorly trained dog barks at the owner. This barking sets all the other poorly trained dogs in town off, all barking at nothing at all. It is as if the dogs are there to announce how ignorant their owners have become. Some owners can be seen walking their dogs, cigarette in hand. Once the dog defecates the owner reaches down to pick up the feces. Now it is time to quickly go back inside to the box with the blue light.

The sidewalks are mostly empty after dark. It is time for everyone to stare at the box with the blue light. Every single house has a big box with a blue light in it. The people sit alone and look at the big colorful boxes. They do not seem to be talking to each other very much. There are no smiles on the faces of these people.

The library parking lot is empty. The library closes quite early these days, there is not enough money. It does not matter, people do not read the old books, they buy new books and do not read those. Talking to these people is like talking to the big blue boxes in each house. The people in town use the same stupid words as the people in the big blue boxes. It is rare to find someone with an original story to tell these days. Most people only repeat the dumb things they see and hear on television.

The newspaper boxes are still full at night. People do not like to read the newspapers. In the morning the paper delivery man, no longer a boy or girl but a grown man, drops a newspaper at every tenth home, maybe. Many of these newspapers are bundled up too neatly on recycling days. The papers look like they were never even read. What a waste of trees and recycling energy.

You can see all this in the town because so many lights are turned on in every house. There are lights turned on in every room it seems. Younger people do not seem to pull curtains or close blinds at night anymore. That is a peculiar fashion trend that is not easy to understand or overlook. The new houses have very big windows, bright lights and no curtains. These homes are full of expensive furniture, appliances and art. For the poor person who likes to go walking this is an insult difficult to ignore in the early evening.

Automatic lights blink on as a person walks on the sidewalk. These lights have motion sensors designed to scare people away. People walking on public sidewalks can expect these lights to surprise them many times. The untrained dogs will snarl and bark each time you walk past. The huge screens of the giant televisions project insulting images out into the street. The smell of burning animal flesh fills the air. At dinner hour the whole town smells like a crematorium if you think about it. The restaurant district always stinks of burning meat.

If you walk around for an hour you will see the intoxicated fat people stumble out of the restaurants. Everyone on the street talks too loud or shouts into portable telephones. They quickly light a cigarette on the short waddle to their trucks. Quickly smoking the cigarette, they throw the butt on the sidewalk. Now they are ready to climb into their big trucks and drive away too quickly, swerving to avoid the crazy person out walking for exercise. A few blocks up the street the big trucks pull into garages near the big houses. All the untrained dogs start to bark again.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Hurricane Rita and Texas Gulf Coast

Much of the Texas Gulf Coast has been over-developed by real estate developers. South Padre Island is the most obvious example of this trend. Here is a quote from the University of Texas at Austin that pretty much sums the situation up:


The more intense the coastal development, the greater the potential for destruction by hurricanes. Developers, vacationers, and condominium owners often assume an uncompromising attitude in facing the killer hurricanes, refusing to acknowledge that the Gulf beaches and barrier islands actually belong to the sea. A case in point is the intensive development of South Padre Island, a part of the 113-mile stretch of barrier sand between Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande. This development, with apartments and condominiums built on bulldozed dunes, has been built since Hurricane Beulah sliced the island into thirty-one segments in September 1967. Considering the pitfalls of predicting a hurricane's path and timing, forecasters cringe at the thought of the loss that a Beulah-like storm might cause in the same area today.


HURRICANE BEULAH, SEPTEMBER 1967

Hurricane Beulah was one of five severe hurricanes to affect the Texas middle coast in this century. Previous severe hurricanes in this area were those of Sept. 14, 1919; Aug. 26, 1945; Hurricane Carla (Sept. 11, 1961) and Hurricane Celia (Aug. 3, 1970). Hurricane Beulah's effects on the Texas middle coast were comparable in many respects to those of Hurricane Carla, with major exceptions in comparatively light flooding of the offshore islands, a very high number of tornadoes, and severe flooding after landfall. The storm began in the extreme eastern Caribbean near the island of Martinique on Sept. 7 and intensified to hurricane force on Sept. 8. Moving generally west-northwestward, Hurricane Beulah touched land in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and the northern Yucatan Peninsula before reaching the southwestern Gulf and heading for the Texas coast. Beulah weakened temporarily to only tropical storm intensity on September 12 and 13 as it crossed the central Caribbean and weakened slightly again as it moved over the land of the Yucatan Peninsula on Sept. 17, but regained strength rapidly in the southwestern Gulf and became a great hurricane as it approached the lower Texas coast on September 19. Like Carla, Beulah moved in a cycloidal path across the Gulf.

Beginning on the afternoon of Sept. 17, persons were advised to remain off the Gulf beaches of Padre, Mustang, and St. Joseph Islands. Immediate evacuation of Port Aransas and Mustang, Padre, and St. Joseph Islands was advised on the morning of Sept. 19. Most of the residents and others on the islands evacuated, including the personnel of Padre Island National Seashore. About 40 persons remained on the islands, including about 20 at Port Aransas. Immediate evacuation of Rockport and Live Oak and Lamar Peninsulas was advised in the evenimg of September 19. These areas and the towns of Ingleside and Aransas Pass were nearly completely evacuated. About 50 persons remained in Rockport. The evacuation of the University of Corpus Christi was advised on the morning of Sept. 20, and Corpus Christi Beach and parts of Flour Bluff were also evacuated. During the storm there were 30,000 people in shelters in Nueces and San Patricio Counties, including 6,000 in Corpus Christi.

After the landfall of Beulah near the mouth of the Rio Grande about 7 AM on Sept. 20, the highest winds diminished sharply, but the remaining storm was very persistent. It moved northward, carrying hurricane winds to south of Alice, stalled there and weakened during the night of Sept. 20, then moved west-southwest passing south of Laredo on the night of September 21, moved southwestward to near Monterrey on Sept. 22, and broke up in the mountains of northern Mexico. The remnant of the center moved southeastward over Mexico and reached the southwestern Gulf area again on Sept. 25.

As with Hurricane Carla, the Corpus Christi area was spared the major violence of the storm. At landfall winds near the center were about 136 miles an hour, and the central pressure, which had been as low as 27.26 inches (937 mb), was 28.07 inches, or 951 mb at Brownsville, which gave the storm a tide producing potential of about 15 feet. The highest winds and tides were expended against the coast about 20 miles north of Port Isabel. As the storm center moved over land southwest of Corpus Christi, generally higher winds occured in inland areas of the Coastal Bend than in coastal areas (See chart at bottom). Gale winds began at Corpus Christi International Airport at 10:30 AM on Sept. 20 and continued until 2 AM on Sept. 21, a duration of 15.5 hours, and hurricane winds occured in gusts between 5:57 PM and 8:40 PM on the 20th.

Tornadoes were extremely numerous with Beulah; a total of 95 have been estimated. Many of the funnel clouds were as small as 20 to 40 feet in diameter where they touched the ground, and they made only brief contact of a few seconds to less than a minute. They travelled generally from east to west or east-southeast to west-northwest, at times as fast as 60 miles per hour. In the Coastal Bend area there were fairly firm indications of about 40 tornadoes. Five were detected near the intense part of the storm on Sept. 20, three on radar as the storm approached in the morning, and two by observations and damaging effects in the evening at Ingleside and Fulton. On Sept. 22, far behind the storm center, a total of about 35 tornado indications were detected on radar within a radius of about 50 miles of Corpus Christi, and about 20 sightings were reported.

Damage from winds and tides was heavy on Corpus Christi Beach and in the Aransas Pass and Rockport-Fulton areas. The Fulton Tornado of Sept. 20 destroyed or badly damaged 20 to 25 buildings and caused three minor injuries. In contrast to the tornadoes reported later, this one and others in advance of the storm center evidenced the usual severely violent tornado characteristics. North of the Coastal Bend other violent tornadoes in advance of the storm killed three persons at Palacios on Sept. 20 and one at Louise and caused numerous injuries and considerable property damage. Electric service was cut off to 8000 customers in Corpus Christi. Two of three TV stations were off the air, one briefly. Salt water was moved up Nueces Bay at Calallen and forced shudaown of the Corpus Christi city water plants. Flooding from salt water along the bays was added to by the very heavy rainfall and runoff from the rainfall over land. The water level in the bays was slow to fall because of the copious runoff from the rains inland, even though Corpus Christi Pass and two other new channels were opened between the bays and the Gulf by the storm. At one time the water level in the bays was about two feet higher than that in the Gulf, and the outflow through channels was very heavy. Many persons living in low areas were homeless for the several days of persistent high water. Wind damage, other than from torndoes, was widespread but mostly not severe to trees, shrubs, telephone and power lines, signs, windows, trailers, boats, beach cottages, and piers and other beach installations. Damage to industries was minor; most of their loss was in shut-down and start-up coasts and in lost production. The damage directly attributable to the storm in the Coastal Bend, not counting the subsequent flooding, was of the order of $20,000,000. There were no fatalities in the Coastal Bend area.

Most of the damage from Beulah was from the floods following the storm's extremely heavy rains. Rainfall attributable to the storm totalled 10 to 20 inches over a widespread area of southern Texas, and amounts ranged up to nearly 30 inches. Adding also to the flooding potential of these rains was the near saturation of the ground over wide areas resulting from earlier rains in August and September. All-time record floods occurred on all Gulf drainage streams and the Nueces and Frio watersheds except for the extreme upper portions. Major flood warning were issued on Sept. 19 and continued through Sept. 25. The stage on the Nueces River 2 miles south of Three Rivers reached an all-time high of 49.20 feet of Sept. 23. The previous highest stage was 46.0 feet, which occurred on September 18, 1919 and was also in a flood following a severe hurricane. An all-time highest flood also occurred below Wesley Seale Dam to Nueces Bay and was nearly 3 feet higher than the previous highest flood. Many towns, especially Three Rivers, Sinton, and Falfurrias, were severely flooded. Water remained for months on poorly drained areas of the Coastal Plains south of Corpus Christi. The total dollar damage from the floods is estimated more than $100,000,000.

THE GREAT GALVESTON HURRICANE, SEPTEMBER 1900

The Great Galveston Hurricane showed on September 7-8th, 1900. It towers alone as the worst natural disaster in the United States in terms of lives lost; the most frequently used estimate of the death toll is 8,000. The potential of this disaster had been shown in the destructions of Santiago in 1844, Clarksville/ Baghdad in 1867, and Indianola in 1875 and 1886. At the time, the population of Galveston was near 30,000. Most of its structures were wood frame built just above ground level and supported by pilings.

A new innovation helped relay details about what the storm did in the Caribbean Islands; it was known as the wireless telegraph. Word has been received of a hurricane which struck Trinidad and destroyed almost all the structures on that island. Word of the storm's passing over Cuba and moving northwest into the Gulf of Mexico in the direction of Texas has been relayed to the Weather Bureau office on the Island. Sailors began to arrive in port telling of horrific weather offshore.

On the 6th, a hurricane watch was posted along the Gulf Coast westward to New Orleans. By the 7th, it was extended further to include Texas. Driving rain began at 4 am on the 7th. At 9 am, large waves began to pound the shores of Galveston Island. Winds began to increase as high, fish-scale shaped clouds (known as altocumulus) began to move inland. The pressure fell rapidly at the weather office. This caused them to hoist a hurricane flag - their version of a hurricane warning in those days. This action caused about 20,000 to evacuate, which saved many lives.

Many people ignored the warning. Gentry from Houston rode out to the Island by train to witness the spectacle of the huge waves crashing at the coast. Through the morning of the 8th, greater numbers of people crowded the beaches. Isaac Cline of the Weather Bureau could not believe what was happening. He took matters into his own hands and rode down the beach in a horse-drawn buggy with his brother, warning people to go back to the mainland - in effect, making him a modern day Paul Revere. Unfortunately, few listened. The weather, however, changed their tune as a wooden pagoda along the beach and its associated boardwalk became mere driftwood before the crowd's eyes. Then they began to disperse. For many, it turned out to be far too late. A steamship broke free of its moorings and went on a rampage, destroying all three bridges to the mainland.

Winds of 100 mph blew away the anemometer at the Weather Bureau. Winds gusting over 125 m.p.h. sent raging waters covering Galveston Island by 15 feet just after 3 am, with additional waves much higher on top of the storm surge. As flood waters rose, people fled towards the center of the island, which had slightly higher ground. This turned out to be fruitless, as it merely delayed the inevitable. The force of the wind threw boards, chairs, and tree limbs through the air. Pebbles and chards of glass became deadly missiles. When the water began rising, Harry Claiborne, keeper of the Bolivar Point Lighthouse, fled to the safety of his workplace. People soon after began pounding on the door, begging to be let into the lighthouse. The tower was soon crammed with over 100 people, many of which were from a train stranded in the rising waters. After a while, the big door to the lighthouse was hidden under 30 feet of water. The lighthouse survived the storm (Roberts 86-88).

Wooden buildings floated off their pilings and smashed into one another. As houses disintegrated, unfortunate occupants were thrust into the water to drown. More than 2600 homes were demolished. Twelve square blocks, comprising 3/4 of the city, were completely wiped out of existence. All bridges across the bay were destroyed, along with 15 miles of railroad track. All communications with the mainland were gone.

The British freighter Kendall Castle was moored offshore. Several ships were driven against her. But it wasn't until the Norwegian freighter Gyller nudged against the Castle when it went on "a wild ride" over the Halfmoon Shoal lighthouse, pounding it into the sand, on the way to Texas City (Cipra 185). Very little damage was done at Sabine Pass however, showing how small the core of this storm was. Thirty million dollars in damage occurred.

Fewer than 2000 of those remaining on the island survived. The weather office chief survived, but his wife drowned. The Bolivar Point Lighthouse became the focal point of relief activities after the storm. The lighthouse over the ensuing days let people in the area know that at least one thing still worked on the island, as it helped storm-battered ships return to shore. Martial law was declared, with looters being shot on sight.

Mustang Island also saw many bodies litter the beach. Corpus Christi had a stiff northeast breeze and exceptional fishing. In Flour Bluff Harbor, millions of red, trout, and mullet infested the waters, avoiding the hurricane. Local residents feasted on tarpon and helped Galveston with over $1000 being raised for food and clothing. After the storm moved inland, it accelerated north to the Great Lakes, still carrying 70 mph winds. It then moved across Canada, the North Atlantic, and Northern Europe before finally dying in Siberia.

A massive public works project was undertaken to raise the city's elevation and build a 3 mile long, 17 foot high, concrete seawall. This has, to date, prevented a tragedy of similar proportions from occurring in Galveston. The city never regained its importance as a major port due to the construction of the Houston ship channel; quite similar to what happened in Indianola 14 years before. As the population swells along the coast, construction has begun to expand into areas not protected by the seawall. Those that have not learned from history are doomed to repeat it! See Louisiana Hurricane History for more details on this storm.

SOME OTHER HURRICANES THAT HIT TEXAS

On August 16, 1915, a large and violent storm struck Galveston, Texas. Even though a seawall ten-feet high was built after the 1900 hurricane, this storm caused tides 12 feet above normal. These tides flooded the central business district to a depth of more than six feet. Unfortunately 275 people lost their lives from a combination of the high water and strong winds.

On Sept. 14, 1919, an unnamed storm became the fourth most intense and deadly storm of the 20th century. It passed near Key West, Fla., on September 9-10. It was a slow moving storm that reached an intensity of 27.37 inches (927 mb) in the vicinity of the Dry Tortugas, islands in south Florida, 65 miles west of Key West. Ten ships were lost at sea accounting for more than 500 of the approximately 800-900 deaths. This hurricane continued slowly westward and finally, on September 14, the center moved inland south of Corpus Christi, Texas. At that point, the tides rose 16 feet above normal and another 287 lives were lost.

Hurricane Audrey struck the Gulf coast in 1957. Audrey made landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border on June 27, 1957. Its core pressure deepened considerably beginning 5 hours before landfall. 390 Americans died as the result of a storm surge in excess of 12 feet, which inundated the shallow coast of Louisiana, south of Lake Charles.

In 1961 Hurricane Carla became the largest and most intense Gulf Coast hurricane in decades. On September 8, 1961, Carla's winds took aim at the Texas coast. By the 9th of September, Carla's winds and rains had impacted the entire Gulf of Mexico causing damage along all Gulf Coast states.

On September 9th. 1961, the largest mass evacuation to that date took place, when an estimated 500,000 residents of coastal areas and barrier islands off Texas and Louisiana were evacuated to higher ground. As Carla approached Texas on the 10th, winds near the eye of the storm reached 150 mph. Government aircraft flying in the storm indicated a central pressure of 931 mb just before Carla struck the coast. Incredibly, only 46 people lost their lives as a result of early warnings. Severe damage along the Texas Gulf coast was magnified by unusually prolonged winds, very high tides and major flooding from heavy rains.

REFERENCES

Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. "GULF OF MEXICO," http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/GG/rrg7.html (accessed September 21, 2005).

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, http://www.srh.noaa.gov/crp/docs/research/hurrhistory/Beulah/beulah.html
(accessed September 21, 2005).

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service, http://www.srh.noaa.gov/lch/research/txlate19hur.htm
(accessed September 21, 2005).