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krazeeboi

Disastrous events in your city's history

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I got the inspiration for this thread from a discussion in the Georgia forum.

Have there been any disastrous events, either due to nature or man, in the history of your city? How do you feel this has shaped your city from the time of the disaster(s) up until this point? Exclude events relating to urban renewal, highway construction, etc.

I'm not really aware of any that have happened here in Rock Hill.

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While where I live has faced windstorms, tornadoes, fires, blizzards, and floods; none have been on a grand "city-destroying" scale. The biggest thing close to a "disaster" for our city was the turn against the U.S. Tobacco industry in the 60's and 70's. Winston-Salem was tied extremely close to R.J. Reynolds Tobacco at the time and had the movement killed the industry at that time it would have brought the city to it's knees, much like other similar size one industry towns.

Fortunately, after many years of holding firmly to one industry, the realization that the city's economy needed diversification was brought to the forefront due to the decline in tobacco. While R.J.R./American Tobacco is still a big presence here, a complete collapse of that company would not do the damage to Winston-Salem as when it was threatened a couple of decades ago.

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I grew up in the Norfolk area. I think some of the worst things in that city's history are as follows:

1776 - the loyalist British governor of Virginia had the city shelled, destroying 800 buldings. Afterward the colonial militia destroyed the remaining bits of the city so that the British troops could not occupy it. The city was not rebuilt until 1783.

1855 - Yellow fever outbreak that killed one in three residents.

1933 - the Hurricane of 1933, though no Katrina, flooded the city.

Early 1950s - School Desegregation crisis spawns racially-motivated urban renewal and removal of mixed-race neighborhoods. Thousands of buildings destroyed.

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The great fire of 1916 in Augusta would have to be it. We've discussed it at length in the Georgia forum, but suffice to say, it destroyed much of our downtown. Our newspaper had to be printed in Macon and then taken to Augusta. Many old churches were burned, including St. Paul's Episcopal, which is the oldest church in Augusta, and is actually where Augusta was founded. A few years ago the Chronicle printed a replica of the 1916 edition. The front page had a shot of Broad Street. To be honest, it looked like the Kansas City scene out of the The Day After. I've looked online, but cannot find it. I'll try to find it soon.

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New Orleans has had to overcome some serious disasters in its 300+ year history:

(1788) Great New Orleans Fire- The fire destroyed 856 of the 1,100 structures in New Orleans on March 21, 1788. The fire destroyed the original Cabildo and virtually all buildings in the French Quarter including the city's main church, the municipal building, the army barracks, armory, and jail. Only two fire engines were operational and they were destroyed by the fire.

(1794) Great New Orleans Fire- Just as recovery from the first fire began to hit its stride, another fire destroyed ove 200 more structures in the city of New Orleans.

(1853-1878) Yellow Fever Outbreaks- In a little over three decades, over 20,000 people died in New Orleans due to massive outbreaks of Yellow Fever.

(1918) Influenza Outbreak- In 1918, another major Influenza outbreak occured in New Orleans and across south Louisiana, killing over 35,000 people.

(1965) Hurricane Betsy- Hurricane Betsy slammed into New Orleans with 110mph winds on September 9th, 1965. Betsy drove storm surge into Lake Ponchartrain, and levees protecting the Lower 9th Ward were overtopped, and the area was heavily flooded. 164,000 homes were flooded, and 76 people died in the city.

Flooding in the Lower 9th Ward after Betsy seen from Air Force One by President Lyndon Johnson (doesn't this look familiar?)

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Street flooding in the Lower 9 (also looks familiar)

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(2005) Hurricane Katrina- On the morning of August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans as a very strong Category 3 hurricane. The city actually survived the hurricane itself quite well, however, levees all around the city and the area were eventually breached by rising waters in Lake Ponchartrain, the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MR. GO), the Industrial Canal, Florida Avenue Canal, and others. 80% of the city saw major flooding, and just about that much of the city was completely desimated. Over 1,300 people died, and over 200,000 houses were destroyed in the city of New Orleans alone. Today, recovery is occuring at a slow pace, but we're getting there. Over 230,000 people are back in the city, and at least 1.2 million are back in the metro area. Big businesses are back, small businesses are getting back on their feet, schools and hospitals are reopening, and plans for new medical centers, neighborhoods, and many other things are in place.

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Good God, New Orleans is a pretty resilient city to have withstood all of that; the only one I was familiar with was, of course, Katrina.

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Good God, New Orleans is a pretty resilient city to have withstood all of that; the only one I was familiar with was, of course, Katrina.

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Apart from the Civil War, varied urban renewal schemes in the 60s and the side effects of sprawl, here are a few of the more infamous events in the Carolinas:

Charleston - 1886: 7.1 earthquake

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Charleston to Charlotte - Sept 1989: Hurricane Hugo, at the time the most intense hurricane to strike the E (FL to ME) Coast

Wilmington - Nov 1898: Several days of anti-black riots culminate in a coup (the forced removal of the city's elected government), major property damage, unknown deaths, and the mass exodus of many black citizens

Raleigh - Nov 28, 1988: F4 tornado damages or destroys 2500 homes, more than 100 businesses in Wake County, and produces nearly $80 million in damage on a path from Raleigh to Roanoke Rapids

Greensboro - Apr 2, 1936: F4 tornado, 2nd deadliest in NC history passes through downtown Greensboro

Greensboro - Nov 1979: Greensboro massacre

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Let me add this: back in the early 90s we had one of our worst floods. Here is a photograph of Amen Corner after the flood:

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It caused the city to get serious about our flood problem, and now it's been solved. Much of our city's past has been characterized by floods. In the late 1890s a massive flood forced the lower end of Broad Street to be covered. For you history buffs, in the basements of many of the buildings on the 700 block of Broad Street, you can still see the old storefronts................

Oh this so much fun. Back in the mid-1800s, a massive tornado ripped through downtown, tearing down our market (where the barbaric practice of slavery was conducted), leaving only one haunted pillar left standing. The pillar is still there at the corner of 5th and Broad. People say it's haunted. I'm not sure, but I did see a cat there once.

There is (was) a town on the Savannah River in between Savannah and Augusta that was destroyed by a tornado and completely abandoned. I shall find more information on this at a later date. Right now I'm mailing applications!!!

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Huntsville has problems with tornadoes. But there is only one- an F4 that hit a busy commercial/residential district on November 15, 1989- that has had a prolonged affect on the city. So what came out of it? 1) A much different (and somewhat improved) Airport Road area, 2) a tornado siren network in Madison County which is now one of the more extensive in this region, and 3) Huntsville now has the most annoying TV meteorologists in the country.

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and 3) Huntsville now has the most annoying TV meteorologists in the country.

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Jacksonville suffered the "Great fire of 1901"

Around noon of Friday, May 3, 1901 a spark from a kitchen fire during the lunch hour at a mattress factory set mattresses filled with Spanish moss on fire at the factory, located in an area now known as LaVilla. The fire was soon discovered and it was thought they could put it out with only a few buckets of water. Consequently an alarm was not turned in until it had gone beyond their control.

Quick facts:

- It was America's third largest urban fire (behind San Fransico Earthquate 1906 and Chicago Fire of 1871).

- The fire swept through 146 city blocks, destroyed over 2,000 buildings and left almost 10,000 people homeless all in the course of eight hours. It is said the glow from the flames could be seen in Savannah, Georgia; smoke plumes in Raleigh, North Carolina.

- Amazingly only seven deaths were reported.

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No offense jman, but I appreciate when weatherman come on during tornado outbreaks even if they interrupt broadcasts. Tornadoes have been a big time killer over the years in Alabama and especially the part of Alabama you're in. That Nov. 1989 F4 tornado killed 24 people and hit in the middle of rush hour.

Another weather incident in Huntsville that has to be mentioned is the April 3rd, 1974 tornado event where two massive tornadoes followed almost an indentical path within 2 hours of each other and devastated the metro area. My family lived in the area at the time and my dad had a car sitting on his desk at work. Truly a once in a lifetime tornado outbreak (April 3, 1974) that may never be duplicated in any of our lifetimes.

You weather buffs in the Carolinas might want to google the March 28, 1984 tornado outbreak there which was easily one of the worst tornado outbreaks in Carolinas history.

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I'd always heard about the Jacksonville fire, but I had no idea it was so destructive. It also appears that a lot of architectural jewels were lost. :(

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Alot was lost, but it wasn't until after the fire that Jax really hit is prime.

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Orlando didn't even have a fire dept until the late 1880's. Here are a few disasters from Orlando's history:

1883 It took a near disastrous fire to wake the town up to the need of fire protection. Mrs. Basset, owner of a hat and dressmaking shop, accidentally set fire to some flammable and explosive material in the front part of her store. Mrs. Basset ran screaming in the street and men came running from every direction. She had to be forcibly restrained from re-entering the building to help in the rescue of her daughter. Two men, P. Hyer and C. Graves rushed in and rescued the child.

1884 January 12, marked the worst downtown fire in Orlando

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I lived in Columbia, SC during Hurricane Hugo...the lower part of the state was hit harder, but I remember being about 8 years old and scared out of my mind while it was going on...our neighborhood was wrecked with downed trees and houses with holes in them and roofs coming off.

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^ Oh yeah, Columbia and Charlotte were next in line after Charleston. Almost a direct path. I remember that even here, it was scary. I can only imagine what it was like in Columbia.

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