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Weather History Review   


The Great Sea Island Storm of 1893
by Bill and Fran Marscher
Mercer University Press, 2004
Trade paper, $16.00 (144 pages)
ISBN:  0-86554-867-6

Before Floyd, before Hugo and even before the Galveston Storm, there was the Great Sea Island Storm of 1893.  It was the first recorded hurricane of great magnitude in this country to bring death and destruction that lasted long after the waters receded.   

Bill and Fran Marscher, who published Living in the Danger Zone a hurricane survival manual and brief history of Atlantic storms, have compiled research from diaries, journals, newspapers, ship logs, histories, and their own family history to write a thorough history -- The Great Sea Island Storm of 1893. 

The Sea Islands were the home of the Gullahs, former slaves and their descendents.  They were ill-prepared to face the storm surge.  The storm came on Sunday August 27, 1893 with most of the destruction coming at night.  For many living in wooden shanties, the only option was to climb in to the trees and be tied to a branch. The storm and aftermath killed more than 2,000 former slaves and descendants of slaves living in the fragile cabins on Daufuskie, Hilton Head, Pinckney, St. Helena and Edisto Island. 

Salt water had covered the wells and fresh water supply.  Most of the animals drowned in the storm, and the crops at harvest time were ruined.  The people left had to battle starvation, disease, lack of housing, and disposal of the dead.   

Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, set up the Sea Island Relief.  Her organization prepared to care for thirty thousand people for eight months or until the early crops were harvested, but the true number requiring aid was closer to seventy thousand. 

The Great Sea Island Storm of 1893 is great reading for the history of the Gullah Nation in the Sea Islands, SC Lowcountry, early days of Red Cross disaster relief, and most importantly the Great Sea Island Storm itself.

Be sure to read the 2001 interview with William and Fran Marscher on their research of Atlantic Coast hurricanes.


Joyce Dixon
Southern Scribe Reviews

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