One of the most epic things the U.S. Coast Guard has ever done. The Galveston 1900 Storm Evacuation.
Put aside Katrina, Andrew, and Mitch. The deadliest natural disaster in American history struck Galveston, Texas at the turn of last century.
The Category 4 hurricane swept in from the Gulf at the worst imaginable time and place: late August, the height of tourist season, in an enormously popular island vacation location. Out of the estimated 36,000 people in Galveston at the time, an incredible 12,000 were killed by the storm.
That's one out of three, equivalent to the effect of the Black Death on Paris in today's numbers. The storm and its incredible 15-foot surge did $500 million in damage in today's dollars, second only to Katrina. Galveston was left in ruins.
Even given this horror, the death toll would have been at least double that had the Coast Guard not already arrived the night before and begun using it's large, fast "tax cutter ships" to assist with the emergency evacuation.
The Coast Guard removed the better part of 20,000 people from Galveston via boat in less than 12 hours: That would be an incredible achievement today, even with modern ships, helicopters and roads. The rescue doesn't even include the further 10,000 people the Coast Guard helped to evacuate elsewhere, or helped to rescue afterward.