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Severe hurricane destroyed 'Indianola' 133 years ago, a fate Galveston would share 14 years later

The Atlantic is void of tropical storms and hurricanes this year but that wasn't the case 133 years ago today.
Credit: KHOU

HOUSTON — Rip Van Winkle knows no sleep like the Atlantic basin so far in the 2019 hurricane season. The basin is void of tropical storms and hurricanes as we near the height of the hurricane season and has been since mid July -- a feat last seen almost 40 years ago!

That was not the case on this date in 1886 when a severe hurricane of category 4 intensity forever removed a thriving port town from the map leaving behind 75 deaths, total obliteration, and today, a simple plaque that now marks the spot of this once thriving town known as 'Indianola.' 

The storm of 1886 finished off the town that was still recovering from a hard hit by another severe hurricane in 1875 that killed approximately 400 people. Indianola was abandoned shortly after the 1886 storm and shipping moved to the rival city of Galveston a hundred miles up the coast.

'A Grand Delusion'

The destruction of Indianola served as an abject lesson for the residents of Galveston, many of whom began calling for the construction of a seawall to protect the city. 

Unfortunately the calls for a seawall fell on deaf ears, partly because the chief meteorologist on the island, Isaac Cline, wrote an op-ed in the Galveston Daily News in 1891 that said anybody who believed a hurricane could do serious damage to Galveston was the victim of a 'grand delusion.' Cline had come to believe that the waters off the coast of Galveston were too shallow to support a storm of any significant strength.

Nine years later, Cline would be proven tragically wrong. Now known as the '1900 storm', Galveston, where 8,000 to 12,000 people were killed in the storm, nearly shared the same fate as Indianola.

With the construction of the seawall, the city was spared significant death and destruction when a storm of similar strength as the 1900 storm came knocking in 1915. Today, the wall continues to do its job. It protects a city that is only a shadow of its former self when it once reined as the New York of the South and was the second richest city in the entire country.