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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Two years after Hurricane Harvey and in the midst of the 2019 hurricane season, the Coastal Bend community knows all too well that while skies may be clear today, history reminds us that life on the coast requires a sense of constant vigilance.
On Sept. 14, 1919, a massive hurricane struck Corpus Christi Bay, burying downtown under 10 feet of debris and claiming as many as 1,000 lives. Prior to the storm, and as noted in the book “Storm Over the Bay: The People of Corpus Christi and Their Port” by Mary Jo O’Rear, Coastal Bend residents living in that time period felt immune to devastating forces that ravaged the Texas coast. In 1915, a hurricane took 116 lives in Galveston but had no effect in Corpus Christi. Later, in 1916, a hurricane damaged Harbor Island and destroyed Riviera Beach with 90-mile-per-hour winds, but again, left Corpus Christi unscathed.
“The 1916 storm … damaged … only flimsy wood structures along Water Street, leading the ‘Caller’ to conclude, ‘The City is Practically Storm Proof’,” O’Rear wrote in her book.
To commemorate the 1919 storm, which played a large influence in the city’s current civil engineering, the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Historical Forum and the Mary and Jeff Bell Library will host “100 Years After the Storm,” on Friday, Sept. 13, from 1-3 p.m. outside of Special Collections and Archives, located on the second floor of Bell Library. The event is free and open to the public, and co-sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts. The program, which is part of “Remembering the Hurricane of 1919: 100 Year Anniversary,” will feature guest speaker O’Rear, who is an Islander alumna, author, and historian, along with a panel discussion led by faculty experts.
“The ability to study the 1919 Hurricane is thanks in part to the saved photos, letters, and other documented items of the time,” said Amanda Kowalski, Bell Library Information Specialist in the Special Collections & Archives. “Our library holds several collections that contain information on the 1919 Hurricane. Additionally, items that document storms like Hurricane Cecilia and Hurricane Harvey are currently being collected by Special Collections.”
Donations can be brought to the event, or individuals can contact email@example.com for more information.
“Storm Over the Bay: The People of Corpus Christi and Their Port” was published in March 2009 by Texas A&M Press and was a finalist for the Texas Institute of Letters Most Scholarly Book Award in May 2010. O’Rear’s article, “Silver-Lined Storm: The Impact of the 1919 Hurricane on the Port of Corpus Christi,” won the Keith Guthrie Memorial Award from the Nueces County Historical Association in 2005 and the H. Bailey Carroll Award from the Texas State Association in 2006. O’Rear has served on six Texas State Historical Association committees. She has spoken before the Texas State Historical Association, the East Texas Historical Association, and as part of the Corpus Christi Museum’s Winter Texan Series.