Mobile, AL Hurricane, Sept 1906
1906—HURRICANE DOES $15,000,000 DAMAGE
STRIKING FURIOUSLY, a West India hurricane roared into the Gulf Coast area on September 27, 1906, and destroyed millions of dollars worth of property in Mobile County. Although only two or three deaths occurred in the city itself, the storm sent more than 150 persons to a watery grave in the nearby vicinity, principally at Sans Souci Beach, Coden, Herron Bay and Navy Cove.
The storm began on Wednesday, September 25th with a driving rain borne on a strong northeast wind. By the evening of the 26th it was impossible to walk on the streets with umbrellas. The barometer continued to drop until it reached a record low of 28.84, fulfilling the Weather Bureau’s prediction that the storm would be centered at Mobile.
All during Wednesday the force of the wind increased. By midnight Wednesday it was a northeast gale, and just before dawn Thursday morning it reached hurricane proportions. Daylight found the air filled with flying objects—shutters, signs, awnings, roofs, trees, timbers, and finally bricks from walls and chimneys. Communication and electrical transmission wires were leveled throughout the city.
During the early morning hours on Thursday, the wind veered to the east, and finally to the southeast, backing up water from the bay into the river until it overflowed the wharves and flooded city streets. By 8 o’clock Thursday morning, the yellow flood had reached Royal Street on St. Michael and was running into Royal Street gutters. It came within 25 feet of Royal on St. Francis—or approximately 30 feet farther up the street than the great flood of 1893. Upper Royal Street, from St. Louis to Beauregard, was also flooded, the water backing on St. Anthony nearly to Conception, and almost as far on State and Congress streets. Water Street at that point was a surging maelstrom, with the wind driving up St. Francis Street and rousing the water in great waves at the street intersection.
From 7:30 Thursday morning until about 10 o’clock Thursday the storm was at its height. Then the wind abated and the waters receded, allowing many persons to descend from trees which they had climbed to save their lives. By Friday morning, the storm was over and reckoning of lives lost and property damage began.
It was found that all the lower coast had been badly washed, with fully 150 lives lost, including many fishermen of the Herron Bay oyster and fishing fleet, where only three men and one vessel of the fleet were saved. Eleven steamboats and 22 sailing vessels were wrecked, and many others damaged, in the river. The quarantine station at Fort Morgan was washed away when the waves cut a great channel entirely across the land from the bay to the gulf. Scores of vessels were wrecked in the lower bay and just outside.
In Mobile itself, the destruction was not nearly so severe. Chief damage was caused by the flood waters, although the wind tore away parts of many buildings. Nearly every church edifice in the city was damaged to some extent: the steeple of Christ Church was blown away and the interior wrecked by falling debris; the Methodist and Baptist Churches on St. Francis Street lost their spires. The courthouse clock and tower were badly damaged, as were the Cawthon, Bienville, St. Andrew, Windsor and Southern hotels. The Old Shell Road and Garrow’s Bend were washed worse than in the storm of 1893, and great sections of other roads and streets throughout the city were scoured away. Gross damage in Mobile County was estimated at more than $15,000,000.
The Mobile area was not the only one to be ravaged by the storm. The entire Mississippi-Louisiana coast suffered severely. Many persons lost their lives at Biloxi, and some 20 schooners and hundreds of small craft were lost at Pascagoula. The death toll at Pensacola was estimated at 50 persons, with $5,000,000 in property damage. At least 100 Malayans in a settlement on Lake Bourgne, La., were said to have been killed.
After normal conditions had been restored, the populace within the city counted itself fortunate in having withstood the hurricane so well. It was pointed out that in both the storm of 1893 and the most recent one, the city proper had proved to be relatively secure against such hurricane disaster—a fact which was later re-emphasized when an 85-mile-an-hour wind swept the city in 1916.
Highlights of 75 years in Mobile, Mobile, Ala.: First National Bank of Mobile, 1940, pages 67-69