|Three full months into the 2007 tropical storm season and everyone will agree that so far Texas has fared well in terms of serious weather that has threatened the coast. And since September has arrived and fall is just around the corner, many Texas coastal residents and visitors are breathing a sigh of relief that the worst is over.
Then again, maybe not.
Before you let your guard down you should know, if you donít already, that September can be a busy month for hurricanes in Texas. In fact, some of our most intense storms have happened late in the hurricane season, and letting your guard down now could be a terrible mistake.
Historically there have been a number of fatal storms to rake the Texas coastline, including the following:
1900: Known as "the Galveston Hurricane," the deadliest hurricane disaster in U.S. history occurred on September 8. More than 8,000 people died when hurricane storm tides (the surge plus the astronomical tide) of 8-15 feet inundated the entire island city of Galveston, Texas. More than half of all the homes and buildings were destroyed. Property damage is estimated at $700 million in 1990 dollars.
1919 a hurricane hit Corpus Christi. This unnamed storm was fourth most intense and deadly storm of the 20th century. It passed near Key West, Florida, on September 9-10. The slow-moving storm reached an intensity of 27.37 inches (927 mb) in the vicinity of the Dry Tortugas -- Florida islands 65 miles west of Key West. Ten vessels were lost at sea accounting for more than 500 of the 800-900 deaths. The hurricane continued slowly westward and on September 14, the center went inland south of Corpus Christi. There, tides rose 16 feet above normal and another 287 lives were lost. (Painting by James B. Janknegt)
Hurricane Carla, September 10. 1961: Carla was the largest and most intense Gulf Coast hurricane in decades. On September 8, Carla's center took aim at the Texas coast. By the 9th, Carla's circulation enveloped the entire Gulf of Mexico with fringe effects along all Gulf Coast states. On the 9th, the largest mass evacuation to that date occurred, as an estimated one-half million residents of low coastal areas and islands off Texas and Louisiana were evacuated to higher ground. As the center approached Texas on the 10th, winds near the center were estimated at 150 mph. Reconnaissance aircraft indicated a central pressure of 931 mb just prior to its striking the coast. Only 46 lost their lives because of early warnings. Severe damage along a wide expanse of the Texas coast was caused by unusually prolonged winds, high tides and flooding from torrential rains. Damage was about $2 billion in 1990 dollars.
Beulah in 1967 developed off the African coast and became a hurricane in the eastern Caribbean Sea on the 8th. From September 10th to 13th it weakened greatly and was downgraded to a tropical storm. However, on the 14th, it regained hurricane status again, turned toward the northwest and headed for the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. It made landfall at Cozumel on the 16th, and entered the southwestern Gulf of Mexico on the 17th. On the l9th, it intensified, and reconnaissance aircraft recorded a central pressure of 920 mb or 27.17 inches. It continued moving northwest and made landfall between Brownsville, TX and the mouth of the Rio Grande about daybreak on September 20. A ship at anchor in Port Brownsville reported winds of 136 mph. Beulah's strength was seen in the impact the storm's surge had along Padre Island, Texas. A total of 31 cuts were observed through the island in the portion extending south from a point 30 miles south of Corpus Christi, Texas. A cut is a new channel through a barrier island. The storm surge was found to have reached a height of at least 18 feet. Torrential rains fell in southern Texas, with amounts ranging from 10 to 20 inches. Beulah also spawned an unsurpassed number of tornadoes, but most were small and occurred in rural areas. The death toll from Beulah reached 15 in Texas -- 5 from tornadoes and 10 from flooding. Damage is estimated at about $900 million in 1990 dollars.
Hurricane Gilbert, September 16, 1988: Although Gilbert, one of the most powerful hurricanes of the century, did not strike the U.S. Gulf coast, it did affect Texas and Oklahoma. It is often compared to 1969's Hurricane Camille, because like Camille, it was also a Category 5 storm. Hurricane Gilbert was also a monumental storm, because it had the lowest sea level pressure ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere at 888 mb (26.23 inches). The highest sustained winds recorded were in Jamaica at 116 mph, with gusts to 140 mph. An unofficial report recorded slightly higher readings. Gilbert's track took it through Jamaica, over the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, through the southwest Gulf of Mexico and made final landfall as a Category 3 hurricane on the northeast Mexican coast on September 16th. Gilbert brought 5 to 10 inches of rain over coastal sections and more in mountainous areas. The weakening storm passed south of Monterrey, Mexico, bringing massive flooding to the area. The storm then tracked north into western Texas and Oklahoma as a heavy rain storm on the 18th. A total of 318 people were killed; 315 throughout Mexico, Central America, Jamaica, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic, and 3 in the U.S. Damages in Mexico were estimated between $1-2 billion (1990 dollars), and nearly $2 billion in Jamaica. The Mexican government reported that more than 60,000 homes were destroyed. The 3 U.S. deaths occurred in San Antonio, from tornadoes spawned from Gilbert's remnants. At least 29 tornadoes were observed across south Texas, and they caused between $40-50 million in damages. In the area of Brownsville, wind gusts from Gilbert of 67 mph to 83 mph were measured by an observer with a truck mounted anemometer, before the storm made landfall in Mexico.