The “Great Hurricane” that struck the Gulf Coast on September 27, 1906 was believed by many to be the most violent storm to hit Pensacola since the city was wiped off of Santa Rosa Island in the 1730s.
The sixth hurricane of 1906 was one of 11 hurricanes or tropical cyclones that Atlantic hurricane season. The storm made landfall 110 years ago west of Biloxi, Mississippi, but wreaked its greatest damage from Mobile to Pensacola. The hurricane was the most destructive storm to strike the Pensacola area in 170 years.
Winds in excess of 105 miles per hour stretched past the city and port of Pensacola. This photograph shows the damage wrought to Pensacola Harbor. Steam is still rising from the smokestack of a nearly sunken ship, and the harbor is crammed with tumbled and sagging boats and lined with collapsed warehouses and shattered docks. In the background, a wasted city of shaken buildings stretches to the horizon.
Storm surge at the waterfront of Pensacola was 10 feet above storm tide at the height of the storm. Water rushed through the second floors of many of the buildings at the waterfront; only five of fifty ships at anchor were not dragged inland. 5,000 houses were damaged or destroyed leaving some 3,000 Pensacolians homeless.
Financial losses in Pensacola alone were over $2 million (over $50 million today) and a total of 134 deaths were attributable to the storm. Pensacola did have some warning as the Weather Bureau had added Marconi’s wireless telegraph in 1902 so the town did have 24 hours notice of the terrible storm.
Among the many photographs that exist, these were taken with a family camera by John Burrow, owner of Burrow Press in Pensacola, who turned some of them into postcards.
What follows is an edited account from Monthly Weather Review along with historical photos of the aftermath of the great hurricane — some that have just been rediscovered after having been lost for more than a century.
“The hurricane was more destructive than any other in the meteorological history of the station.”
This was the most terrific storm in the history of Pensacola. The greatest loss was to the shipping interests; a large number of ocean-going vessels, tug boats, fishing smacks, launches, and craft of all kinds were wrecked upon the beach.
The people of the city were panic stricken. Santa Rosa Island saved Pensacola from more severe suffering. The entire water front property was inundated, the water reaching many houses; some were either carried away completely or irreparably damaged.
On Palafox street from the wharf north to Wright street, there is hardly a building that has escaped damage. Fort Pickens has suffered severely, and Fort McRae is completely razed.