1875 Indianola hurricane

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Indianola hurricane
landfall), Florida, Louisiana, Texas (landfall)

Part of the 1875 Atlantic hurricane season

The 1875 Indianola hurricane brought a devastating and deadly storm surge to the coast of Texas. The third known system of the 1875 Atlantic hurricane season, the storm was first considered a tropical cyclone while located east of the Lesser Antilles on September 8. After passing through the Windward Islands and entering the Caribbean Sea, the cyclone gradually began to move more northwestward and brushed the Tiburon Peninsula of Haiti late on September 12. On the following day, the storm made a few landfalls on the southern coast of Cuba before moving inland over Sancti Spíritus Province. The system emerged into the Gulf of Mexico near Havana and briefly weakened to a tropical storm. Thereafter, the storm slowly re-intensified and gradually turned westward. On September 16, the hurricane peaked as a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 115 mph (185 km/h). Later that day, the hurricane made landfall near Indianola, Texas. The storm quickly weakened and turned northeastward, before dissipating over Mississippi on September 18.

The hurricane brought heavy rainfall to several islands of the Lesser Antilles, especially on

Saint Vincent. The latter reported significant damage and loss of life, including a ship that sunk with the loss of 20 crew members. Flooding and landslides caused severe damage to crops and roads, while two bridges and several homes were swept away, including more than 30 homes in total from the towns of Hopewell and Mesopotamia. Another 20 people died after the ship Codfish sank offshore Martinique. Navassa Island experienced strong winds, heavy rainfall, and very large waves, downing many trees and destroying several homes. Strong winds and above normal tides in Cuba left damage across the island, especially in Júcaro (close to Venezuela, Cuba) and Santa Cruz del Sur. In Texas, the storm completely destroyed Velasco and nearly destroyed the town of Indianola. In the latter, storm surge washed away three-quarters of the buildings and significantly damaged the structures that remained standing. Only eight buildings in the town were undamaged. Four people drowned after the two lighthouses at Pass Cavallo were swept away. At Galveston, several houses and a railroad bridge were destroyed, and a ship, the Beardstown, sank in Galveston Bay
. The town suffered about $4 million in damage and 30 deaths. Overall, the hurricane caused approximately 800 deaths, with at least 300 in Indianola alone.

Meteorological history

Map plotting the storm's track and intensity, according to the Saffir–Simpson scale
Map key
  Tropical depression (≤38 mph, ≤62 km/h)
  Tropical storm (39–73 mph, 63–118 km/h)
  Category 1 (74–95 mph, 119–153 km/h)
  Category 2 (96–110 mph, 154–177 km/h)
  Category 3 (111–129 mph, 178–208 km/h)
  Category 4 (130–156 mph, 209–251 km/h)
  Category 5 (≥157 mph, ≥252 km/h)
Storm type
triangle Extratropical cyclone, remnant low, tropical disturbance, or monsoon depression

The hurricane or its precursor was first observed on September 1 by the ship Tautallon Castle, which was located southwest of

St. Lucia early on September 9. The cyclone was estimated to have intensified into a Category 2 hurricane around 00:00 UTC on September 11. Thereafter, the system began moving in a more northwestward direction. Late on September 12, the hurricane brushed the Tiburon Peninsula of Haiti.[2]

Continuing northwestward, the cyclone made landfall near Pilón, Cuba, with winds of 105 mph (169 km/h), shortly before 06:00 UTC on September 13. The storm briefly re-emerged into the Caribbean and weakened to a Category 1 hurricane before making landfall on the south coast of modern-day Sancti Spíritus Province around 18:00 UTC with winds of 90 mph (140 km/h). Early the following day, the system emerged into the Straits of Florida and weakened to a tropical storm at about 06:00 UTC on September 14, before becoming a Category 1 hurricane again six hours later. Early on September 15, the cyclone curved to the west-northwest and re-intensified further, becoming a Category 2 hurricane again by 12:00 UTC. About 24 hours later, the system intensified into a Category 3 hurricane and peaked with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph (185 km/h). Around 21:00 UTC on September 16, the hurricane made landfall near Indianola, Texas, at the same intensity.[2] Based on sustained winds of 115 mph (185 km/h) and the pressure–wind relationship developed by National Hurricane Center meteorologist Dan Brown in 2006, the barometric pressure was estimated at 955 mbar (28.2 inHg), the lowest associated with the storm.[3] The hurricane curved northward after moving inland and quickly weakened to a tropical storm by 12:00 UTC the next day. Turning northeastward shortly thereafter, the system weakened to a tropical depression on September 18 and dissipated over southern Mississippi around 18:00 UTC that same day.[2]

Preparations and impact



arroyos, rose as much as 12 ft (3.7 m) in six hours. Most of the streets were flooded with over 3 ft (0.91 m) of water, while marketplaces and low-lying areas were also inundated. Many homes and two bridges were swept away. At the Roman Catholic cemetery, floodwaters unearthed several recently interred bodies and swept them into the ocean. Along the coast, seven of the ten vessels docked at the bay were beached.[5] In the Mariaqua Valley of Saint Vincent, hundreds of people fled their homes from the villages of Hopewell and Mesopotamia. Water swept away more than 30 homes in total from both villages. Four people drowned in Mesopotamia.[5] Additionally, five fatalities occurred in Queensbury.[6] During the storm, the volcano La Soufrière showed signs of activation.[5] Following the storm, the Legislative Assembly of Saint Vincent voted to allocate £500 (US$2776) for repairing roads and £300 (US$1666) for relief to those whose homes were destroyed. A total of 52 people were granted aid, many of whom lived in Mesopotamia.[6]

On Barbados, several locations reported around 13 in (330 mm) of precipitation, while up to 15 in (380 mm) of rain was observed. Three vessels on the island were driven ashore.

gig and eight lighters capsized. Jamaica experienced storm surge, heavy rainfall, and near-hurricane-force winds. In Falmouth, storm surge inundated roads. Adverse weather conditions briefly interrupted communications between Holland Bay and Kingston, as well as between Holland Bay and Santiago de Cuba.[7]

The Belen College Observatory in Havana, Cuba, issued a storm warning on September 11, as forecasters anticipated that the hurricane would continue west-northwestward and strike the island. This was the first issuance of a tropical cyclone-related warning in the Caribbean Sea. The well-publicized warning was credited with saving many lives.[4] Tides in Cuba reached 3 ft (0.91 m) above normal at the bay in Santiago de Cuba. A severe thunderstorm associated with the hurricane killed a girl, and injured two men at a fishing village. The hurricane destroyed a section of railroad in Guantánamo.[7] Strong winds and above normal tides left damage across the island, particularly in Júcaro and Santa Cruz del Sur. In the latter, the tides inundated many streets. Strong winds destroyed all shacks and partially damaged even the strongest buildings.[4]

United States

In Louisiana, the hurricane sunk or swept ashore several ships along the coast. Even at the protected New Orleans harbor, ships foundered. Communications with the schooner Mabel was lost after it sailed out of the mouth of the Mississippi River. The state experienced more intense impacts after the storm moved eastward out of Texas. At Shell Island, located near the west end of Vermilion Bay, tides exceeded those during the 1856 hurricane. In New Orleans, the steamer Natchez collided with the ferry Lousie. The boats linked together and drifted down the Mississippi River, until the Natchez was re-secured after passing the Belle Rowland and the C. H. Dufree. In St. Mary Parish, 34 hours of heavy rainfall and storm surge generated by "tremendous equinoctial storm" caused considerable damage to cotton and sugar cane. Inland, observers in Calcasieu Parish noted that the wind shifted with "terrific force" as the storm crossed Louisiana.[8]

Indianola, Texas, in 1875

The storm brought a strong storm surge to the Texas coast, causing heavy damage and a total of 800 deaths.[9] Three-quarters of the buildings in Indianola were washed away and the remaining structures were in a state of ruin, with only eight buildings left undamaged.[10] Boats were washed as far as 9 miles (14 km) inland.[1] The town may have experienced winds gusts between 145 and 150 mph (233 and 241 km/h), though the anemometer blew away after recording a wind gust of 88 mph (142 km/h).[1] Approximately 300 people were killed in Indianola.[9] In the aftermath of the storm in Indianola, looters stole possessions from the deceased. Fifteen people caught looting from the dead were killed. Surviving residents of Indianola debated relocating the town. However, considerations were dropped after political ambitions interfered. The town would be rebuilt, only to be devastated again by the 1886 hurricane.[1]

In Cameron County, damage to a railroad resulted in a suspension of service between Brownsville and Port Isabel. The sand dunes on Matagorda Island were flattened. The hurricane killed approximately 90% of residents of Saluria, located on the eastern end of the island. Two lighthouses at Pass Cavallo were swept away, including the four light keepers. Velasco was completely leveled. The city was not rebuilt until 1888, at which time it had been relocated about 4 miles (6.4 km) farther upstream the Brazos River. At Galveston, tides reached up to 10 ft (3.0 m) above normal, cutting two temporary channels across the island. Several houses on the eastern side of the island and a railroad bridge were destroyed. In Galveston Bay, the steamer Beardstown sunk. The storm dropped 6.48 in (165 mm) of rainfall on September 17 – a record for that date. Winds possibly reached 110 mph (180 km/h), with the wind being "higher and harder" than during the 1867 hurricane.[1]

Hurricane warning flags

Farther north,

Harrisburg and Houston were impacted by the hurricane. Water from Galveston Bay at Houston swept farther inland than ever recorded at the time.[1] Trees were brought down throughout the city, with some streets resembling "forests just cut down", according to The Daily News. Fallen trees and fences blocked sidewalks on Congress Street. A number of homes were deroofed. Three buildings at the fairgrounds were destroyed. Heavy rainfall flooded some streets. Two bridges over White Oak Bayou were washed away, while a few houses along the bank of the bayou were also swept away. Damage in Houston reached about $50,000.[11] In Spring, heavy precipitation caused streams to overflow and streets to quickly flood, with The Daily News noting that floodwaters took "almost everything within its reach." A combination of strong winds and torrential rains damaged several miles of railroad tracks and washed out several roads. Cotton crops were completely wiped out.[12] In Wallisville, several buildings were demolished, while moderate damage occurred in Beaumont and Liberty. Strong winds buffeted Austin County for about 48 hours, causing severe damage to vegetation and downing many trees.[1]

The storm left a lasting impact on warnings being issued for hurricanes. Within the United States, the public was dissatisfied with the Signal Corp forecasts after the Indianola hurricane. The immediate response by the Signal Corp was the creation of the hurricane warning flag, a pair of red flags 10 by 8 ft (3.0 by 2.4 m) each in size, inset with black rectangles. From October 1, 1875, hurricane warning flags were hoisted in areas where hurricane warnings were in effect, and illuminated at night.[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h David M. Roth (January 17, 2010). Texas Hurricane History (PDF). Weather Prediction Center (Report). College Park, Maryland: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. p. 21 and 22. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c "Atlantic hurricane best track (HURDAT version 2)" (Database). United States National Hurricane Center. April 5, 2023. Retrieved October 5, 2023. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  3. ^ Christopher W. Landsea; et al. Documentation of Atlantic Tropical Cyclones Changes in HURDAT. Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (Report). Miami, Florida: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved July 26, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d Jose Fernández-Partagás and Henry F. Diaz (1995). A Reconstruction of Historical Tropical Cyclone Frequency in the Atlantic from Documentary and other Historical Sources 1851–1880 Part II: 187–1880 (PDF). pp. 45, 46, 48. Retrieved May 16, 2017. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  5. ^ a b c d "A Hurricane". Chicago Tribune. The Times. November 6, 1875. p. 3. Retrieved July 26, 2019 – via Newspapers.com. icon of an open green padlock
  6. ^ a b Forwards report of a 'severe storm' [hurricane?] on 9 September 1875 (Report). The National Archives. October 18, 1875. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  7. ^ a b Annual Report of the Secretary of War (Report). United States Signal Service. 1876. p. 339. Retrieved May 16, 2017.
  8. ^ David M. Roth (April 8, 2010). Louisiana Hurricane History (PDF). Weather Prediction Center (Report). College Park, Maryland: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. p. 22. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  9. ^ a b Edward N. Rappaport & Jose Fernandez-Partagas (May 28, 1995). "The Deadliest Atlantic Tropical Cyclones, 1492-1996". National Hurricane Center. Retrieved July 26, 2019.
  10. ^ Helen B. Frantz (June 15, 2010). "Indianola Hurricanes". Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  11. ^ "From Houston". The Daily News. September 19, 1875. p. 4. Retrieved May 11, 2017 – via Newspapers.com. icon of an open green padlock
  12. ^ "From Spring, Texas". The Daily News. September 19, 1875. p. 4. Retrieved May 11, 2017 – via Newspapers.com. icon of an open green padlock

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