Hurricane Songs and Stories

Updated on September 7, 2019
harrynielsen profile image

Music is a diverse form of expression that takes in many styles. It's a popular field that can only be briefly sampled in a short article.

Hurricane, Bahamas

This Winslow Homer painting depicts a hurricane brewing in the Bahamas
This Winslow Homer painting depicts a hurricane brewing in the Bahamas

Hurricane Season

Officially, hurricane season lasts from June through November, but in reality the peak months are August and September. Everybody, who has lived along the Gulf Coast or the South Atlantic states, probably has a good story or two to tell about these cyclonic winds and torrential rains that occasionally come ashore and wreck havoc.

In worse case scenarios the destruction can be horrific. Still, somebody has to tell the story and that's where folksingers and musicians come to the forefront. From the Great Galveston Flood of 1900 to Hurricane Harvey (August 2017), which just dropped an unbelievable amount of rain on East Texas, the survival tales persist. Here is a small selection from a few storms that had left behind a durable memory among the survivors.

Picking Up the Pieces, Galveston 1900

Galveston search the wreckage of the 1900 Hurricane,
Galveston search the wreckage of the 1900 Hurricane, | Source

Wasn't That a Mighty Storm

The Great Galveston Flood was an unnamed September hurricane that decimated the Texas coastal island and town of Galveston. Destruction was horrible and the death toll was even worse, as it is believed that over 10,000 people died in the tidal surge. After the storm, the city of Galveston undertook one of the biggest public works in U.S. History and raised the island approximately seventeen feet. Then they added a stone seawall to hold back any future Gulf storm surge.

A song, called “Wasn't That a Mighty Storm” also grew out of the aftermath. The tune is sometimes called The Galveston Flood and has long since become a standard among folksingers. History of the song is obscure, but it is believed that the song originated in the black churches of the region as a spiritual. The first recording occurred in 1933 by a preacher, named “Sin-killer” Griffen. In the late 50s, folksinger Eric von Schmidt found the tune in the Library of Congress archives and revived and rearranged it. I have linked to a 2008 version by the Canadian group, The Duhks. Their cover of Wasn't That a Mighty Storm features the deep soulful voice of Sarah Dugas.

Wasn't That a Mighty Storm

Louisiana 1927

Back in the seventies, Randy Newman wrote this sad ballad about the 1927 hurricane that hit southeastern Louisiana. The interesting thing about this story is that he obtained the oral history about the storm from his mother, who was originally from the Crescent City. Keep in mind this story takes place before hurricanes had names and before there were satellite photos and specially-designed hunter planes that could fly into the center of a 150 mph storm.


Hurricane Hattie

In 1961, Hurricane Hattie, brushed by the island of Jamaica and then hit southern Belize hard, killing several hundred people in the process. A year later, at age fourteen, a young Jamaican musician named, Jimmy Cliff, released a song called Hurricane Hattie. Though more about a stormy personal relationship than the actual hurricane, the tune became an island hit that launched the young musician's singing career.

Hurricane Hattie

Hurricane Betsy

Hurricane Betsy was a 1965 hurricane that crossed southern Florida and then intensified once it got into the Gulf of Mexico. Even though the storm came inland west of New Orleans, its counterclockwise winds drove water into Lake Ponchartrain and severely flooded the eastern parts of New Orleans, including the Ninth Ward, and St. Bernard Parish. As during Katrina, some levees broke flooding some homes and trapping residents in their attics. Even so the death toll was just a tiny fraction of what happened during Katrina. Lightning Hopkins wrote this blues account while living in the Big Easy.

Hurricane Betsy

Tryin' To Reason With Hurricane Season

Several decades ago, 1974 to be exact, Jimmy Buffett penned this laid-back, half-sober tune about life on a tiny little strip of land (the Florida Keys) that sticks way out into the Gulf of Mexico. The album was entitled A1A, a direct reference to that long stretch of asphalt that links Key West to the rest of Florida.

Although no actual hurricanes appear in this song, Jimmy draws an interesting parallel between his struggling life as a musician and the precarious position in his home way out in the gulf.

Trying To Reason with Hurricane Season

Gilbert Mash Up Jamaica

Before Gilbert decimated the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico as a category 5, the tempest roared across the Jamaica as a Cat 3 storm. Fortunately, Jamaica is the home to many talented Reggae musicians so the destruction and aftermath of the storm was duly recorded with a skankin' rhythm beat. The results are quite humorous, even though the hurricane wasn't. It killed about 40 people in Jamaica and hundreds in Mexico.

Both Yellowman and Lloyd Lovindeer recorded songs with the same title, Wild Gilbert. I have no idea whether this is the result of coincidence or copying. Anyway, below is a link to the Yellowman video, a spirited request to the people of Jamaica to pick themselves up by their bootstraps.

Wild Gilbert

Hurricane Katrina

By a long shot, Hurricane Katrina has inspired more songs than any other tropical event. Much of the explanation may be found within the very nature of the Crescent City, for nowhere in North America, can such a rich musical tradition be found. From the bars of the French Quarter, to the streets surrounding Jackson Square to the uptown music halls, music is everywhere. Even funerals are sometimes celebrated with the help of a marching brass band.

Combine these cultural elements with a disaster of the magnitude of Katrina and it is no wonder that there are so many New Orleans musicians, talking and singing about life in the new Big Easy.

Three songs are featured here. One by a C&W singer, simply called Crescent City Snow, another by a slide guitarist, titled The Long Black Line. And finally there is the Dirty Dozen Brass Band performing a rap version of Marvin Gaye's classic, What's Going On. There last number may take a few extra words because in normal times, the Dirty Dozen is a traditional brass band that almost never ventures from that genre. To have this band perform an angry rap song about the Katrina catastrophe shows just how bad things became in the Katrina aftermath.

Crescent City Snow

The Long Black Line

What's Going On?

Hurricane Harvey

The rock band, Coldplay, was scheduled to play in Houston the night before Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas Gulf Coast. Wisely, the band canceled their show and headed on to their next concert stop in Miami. And it was here in Miami that they performed their recently-written tribute to the residents of Houston. The song is written in a C&W style and simply titled, Houston #1.

Houston #1

Palms in a Hurricane

Its a rare year when the summer months fail to produce a few newsworthy photos like this one of Harvey in Texas
Its a rare year when the summer months fail to produce a few newsworthy photos like this one of Harvey in Texas

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2017 Harry Nielsen


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)