Texas won its independence from Mexico and officially became the Republic of Texas on March 2, 1836, remaining an independent nation until February 19, 1846 when it entered the Union. On October 1, 1837 a year and a half after independence, the new nation had to struggle with its first large-scale national disaster. A hurricane formed off the coast of Africa and took more than a week to make the journey into the gulf of Mexico. Then on October 1 the storm wrought destruction along the entire coast of Texas. The settlement at Brazos Santiago was almost totally destroyed, with only a few buildings left standing, while all ships there were sunk or driven aground. Communities along the shores of Matagorda Bay were heavily damaged, with buildings and wharves swept away. Farther north, a 7 ft storm surge flooded Galveston Island, where nearly every building was lost, along with all supplies and provisions. Of the 30 vessels present in the harbor at Galveston when the storm began, only one remained moored following its passage. In one case, a ship was driven against a three-story warehouse, causing the building to collapse. Among the ships destroyed at Galveston were two Texas Navy Schooners. In a scene of "utter desolation", and a scene that would be played out many more times in Galveston during the next 100 years, and especially during the 1900 hurricane, some individuals in Galveston survived the flooding by holding on to floating debris for days. Floodwaters rushed over coastal prairies for up to 20 miles inland drowning livestock. The storm surge deposited ships in fields several miles inland, heavy surf action significantly altered the coastline at the entrance to Galveston Bay and Houston experienced a 4 ft rise in water levels. Despite the damage throughout coastal Texas, only two people are known to have died there. The storm then moved onto the east along the Gulf Coast of the United States and produced flooding in New Orleans of 8 feet and brought heavy rains all the way into the Carolinas.
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