Galveston history makes for a strong role model in challenging times. The Galveston hurricane of 1900 is still counted the deadliest natural disaster ever to strike the United States. After a night of battering wind and waves, survivors found much of their thriving city demolished if not washed away. Islanders had no contact with the mainland, no water, lights, fuel, or water. Many had no shelter. Food and clothing were scarce. The task of disposing of over 6,000 bodies was so gruesome that men had to be forced at gunpoint to take part, and whiskey was allotted to ease their anguish. After dumping the bulk of those bodies in the sea, a storm deposited them back on the beach the following night, forcing the traumatized workers burn them.
Tempting as it must have been to abandon the ravaged island, city leaders did their best to hurricane-proof it instead. Dredged sand raised parts of the island by as much as 17 feet, slanting the terrain for fast drainage. Then came a seawall 10 miles long and 17 feet high.
Storms still leave stunning high-water marks, but death tolls don’t go beyond double-digits. One recent storm did kill a number of much-loved oaks which were left in place and sculpted by local artists.