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SE TX Hurricane Climatology»
Tropical Cyclones in the 1980s
Upper Texas Coast Tropical Cyclones in the 1980s
ALLISON (TS - June 26th landfall)
Tropical Storm Allison developed from the remnants of Eastern Pacific Hurricane Cosme
and a tropical wave. Based upon observations from offshore oil rigs and coastal surface data,
a tropical depression formed on 6/24. It was upgraded to tropical storm status on the 26th
based on a wind report of 35 knots with gusts to 45 knots from a ship, some 100 nautical
miles northeast of the center. Allison moved inland over the mid Texas coast, near the
northeast end of Matagorda Bay, with a central pressure of 1002 mb, but continued to
strengthen slightly over the next 12 hours as the central pressure dropped to 999 mb on
the 27th. Highest wind gusts in the Houston-Galveston area was 56 mph at the Galveston
Weather Office on the 26th. There was one tornado (injuring one person) associated with
Allison. It touched down on the Bolivar peninsula in the Gilchrist area and did minor damage.
Torrential rains accompanying Allison fell along the upper Texas coast and over the
western two-thirds of LA. Nearly 30 inches of rain fell in a 6-day period at a few
locations in north-central LA. 10 to 15 inches of rain just north and east of Houston
extending eastward towards Beaumont produced major flooding in the area. The flood
waters were very significant because previous flood waters from heavy rains in May had
just abated. Flooding was worse in north and east Harris County and in southern Liberty
and northern Chambers counties. The heaviest rainfall was to the right of where Allison
made landfall. Over 10 inches fell in a 24 hour period over eastern Harris County
eastward into Liberty and Chambers counties. Storm totals for four days ending on the
27th were close to 15 inches of rain in eastern Harris County. Actually, flooding from
the tropical system began on the 24th when up to 5 inches of rain fell over southeast
Harris County in the area around Hobby Airport and Deer Park. Major overbank flooding
began on rivers and bayous in the area on the 26th and continued in the area through
the first week in July. All rivers and lowlands in the area mentioned were flooded
and waters were very slow to recede.
Storm surge heights produced from Allison on the Gulf side were 3 to 5 feet. Offshore
seas were reported to be 10 to 16 feet. May tides were a maximum in the upper end of
Trinity Bay near Baytown where 7 feet was measured.
The death total in Allison was 11, all attributed to drowning. Estimated dollar damage is
near 1/2 billion dollars, due mainly to flooding.
CHANTAL (Cat. 1 Hurricane - August 1st landfall)
Chantal was first detected on July 24th as a disturbance near Trinidad. Ships and satellites
indicated that a tropical depression formed on the 30th. The depression became a storm on the 31st,
when an Air Force Reconnaissance plane estimated maximum surface winds of 45 knots, while a ship
reported a 50 knot wind on the east side of the storm center. Chantal continued strengthening while
moving northwest toward the upper TX coast and was upgraded to a hurricane by August 1st.
Chantal reached its peak, just prior to the center making landfall at High Island, TX
with top winds of 70 knots and a tide of up to 7 feet. Thirteen deaths were attributed
to Chantal and, just as in Allison, all were the result of drowning. Chantal's main
effects were flooding, by torrential rains, and beach erosion.
Chantal's rains were the most significant feature of the hurricane as amounts of up to 12.1
inches officially and 20 inches unofficially were reported from locations in an east-west
band about 20 miles south of downtown Houston and extending from Texas City to Rosenberg.
The resultant flooding affected hundreds of homes across Southeast Texas. In addition to
the flooding, beach erosion occurred along the coast in the High Island area, and although
wind damage was relatively weak, numerous trees, power lines, fences and signs were blown
down and some roof damage was done to homes, mobile homes, and carports. There were about
3,000 homes in Texas that had either water or wind damage. There were only two weak
tornadoes spawned by Chantal that could be confirmed, one on Crystal Beach of the Bolivar
Peninsula, and the other near Iota, LA. The total damage from Chantal was near $100 million.
JERRY (Cat. 1 Hurricane - October 15th landfall)
Jerry originated from a tropical wave
that moved across the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean Sea. There were no additional signs
of organization before it developed into a tropical depression on 10/12 as it moved into
the Bay of Campeche. The depression attained tropical storm strength on the 13th. After
some hesitation, shearing and a temporary turn to the northeast, Jerry turned toward the
north northwest on the 15th and strengthened to a hurricane. The hurricane made landfall
on Galveston Island, near Jamaica Beach, in the evening on the 15th. No hurricane had ever made landfall
on the upper TX coast so late in the season. Once inland, Jerry moved over eastern TX,
weakened rapidly, and was absorbed by a frontal trough late on the 16th. Maximum sustained
surface winds of 65 knots with gusts to 87 knots were measured at Scholes Field on Galveston
Island as the eyewall passed over the airport. The observation site lost power near this
time, and the observer-estimated maximum sustained winds reached 70 knots with gusts of 90
to 100 knots. An extrapolated minimum central pressure of 982 mb was reported by a NOAA
aircraft and by an Air Force plane just prior to landfall. Jerry killed three people, all
by drowning when their car was either driven off the Galveston seawall during a blinding
rain, or was blown off by the winds.
Jerry's effects were considered minor. There was little wind damage, as the cyclone was of
small size and its tropical storm force winds were restricted to a narrow band along its path.
Also, Jerry weakened quite rapidly from its already minimal hurricane status after landfall;
maximum winds reported at Houston's Intercontinental and Hobby airports were both less than
tropical force. The highest tide, 7.0 feet, was reported at Baytown on Galveston Bay, although
unofficial reports of an 8 foot tide were received from near the entrance to the Houston ship
channel just west of Baytown. Rainfall was generally 2 inches or less in the Houston area,
and between 2 and 5 inches eastward from Galveston Bay to the state line. There was one
report as high as 6.40 inches from Silsbee. Also, Jerry spawned six tornadoes over Southeast
Texas, but all six were momentary and rated as F0 in intensity as they produced little damage
along their short path lengths.
Damage estimates for the hurricane were near $70 million. Damage mainly consisted of light
beach erosion on portions of Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula, and some flooding.
The flooding was mostly of the coastal type produced by storm surge, or of the urban street
type caused by sudden isolated downpours of heavy rain.
UNNAMED (TS - August 9th landfall)
An unnamed tropical storm was quick to move inland
shortly after forming in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico on 8/9, and attained tropical storm
status for only a few hours prior to its landfall near the TX-LA border. Only a few oil rigs
reported sustained winds of 35 knots, and since it appeared the winds might be related to
convection rather than the circulation at the time of the storm, the system was not upgraded
or named. After-the-fact upgrading from subtropical to tropical storm status was based on a
re-evaluation of wind data, the storm's tropical cloud pattern, and the tendency for the
system to maintain itself with a spiral, bandlike structure for several days after its
landfall. Rain amounts associated with this system averaged 3 to 7 inches, mainly in LA.
The highest 24 hour rainfall total observed was 8.70 inches in Baker, LA. Widespread street
flooding was reported in numerous LA parishes.
BONNIE (Cat. 1 Hurricane - June 26th landfall)
Hurricane Bonnie, the first June hurricane
to affect the Texas coast since 1957, made landfall between High Island and Sabine Pass in the
early morning hours of the 26th. Bonnie formed first as a tropical depression about 350 miles
southeast of New Orleans, late morning on the 23rd. It intensified to tropical storm strength
on the morning of the 24th. Hurricane strength was obtained on the morning of the 25th. The
hurricane strengthened until having 97 mph winds and a central pressure of 992 mb (29.23
inches) at landfall. The 97 mph wind was recorded at Sea Rim State Park, and the peak gust at
the Jefferson County Airport NWS office was 66 knots (75 mph).
While Bonnie caused no major structural damage, there was widespread minor damage and debris
littered the streets of Port Arthur and Beaumont. The high winds broke out many windows, and
downed countless trees, signs, fences, and tree limbs. Fallen trees damaged several homes.
High winds ripped the roofs off of numerous homes and businesses. Many schools in the area
suffered roof and wind damage. The high winds tilted over tractor-trailer rigs and flipped
over smaller vehicles. Several aircraft were damaged at local airports. Power was out in
most of the area as many utility poles were downed or leaning so that electrical lines were not
functional. In Beaumont, high winds blew over the radio tower at the Texas Dept. Of Public
Safety building. There were several reports of funnel clouds spotted, but no confirmed
tornadoes. In Chambers County, high winds ripped the roof off of a mobile home near Winnie.
Further inland, high winds on Sam Rayburn Reservoir, damaged boats and marinas, and the
damage was estimate at near $1 million. There were many trees and power lines down in Tyler
Approximately 1,300 people were forced from their home from flooding that was produced by the
torrential rains that accompanied Bonnie. The rains were the heaviest from the Beaumont area
northwest to Lake Livingston. As much as 13 inches fell at Ace in southern Polk County. This
heavy rain produced a runoff that resulted in a rise on the Mill and Menard Creek that flooded
Bear Foot Lake and some homes surrounding the lake. The lake rose and the flood waters eroded
part of the Big Thicket Lake Estate Dam. Below the dam, about 200 families were evacuated in
fear that the structure would give way. There were no deaths or injuries from this event.
Local flooding occurred in and around Bridge City where 7.5 inches of rain fell. Around six
inches also fell near Kirbyville along the Jasper-Newton County line. Flooding closed several
roads in the area. In San Jacinto County, flooding occurred along Big Creek which closed U.S.
Highway 59 for several hours. In Hardin County, rains in excess of six inches fell on the
headwaters of Pine Island Bayou and resulted in the flooding of hundreds of homes and businesses.
Village Creek was flooded in Hardin and Tyler counties. There was overbank flooding of the
Neches River in Tyler, Jasper, Orange, Hardin, Jefferson and Polk counties. Texas Highway 87
in Jefferson County was closed early on the 26th due to fallen poles and scattered debris.
The highest tide from the storm was 5.4 feet at Sabine Pass on the morning of the 26th. Tides
were generally 3 to 4 feet on Bolivar Peninsula. The highest tide at Galveston was 2.2 feet on
the evening of the 25th.
The effects of Bonnie on Harris and Galveston counties were trifle or nil. The peak wind at the
Galveston WSO was 30 knots. At Alvin, the peak wind was 21 knots. Rainfall at both locations
was 0.38 and 0.62 inches, respectively. An estimate 25,000 persons evacuated the upper coastal
areas in advance of the storm.
There were no deaths that could be attributed directly to Bonnie. However, there were four
related deaths (two in traffic accidents, one from a house fire, and one drowned while getting
fresh water from a pond).
ALICIA (Cat. 3 Hurricane - August 18th landfall)
Alicia was the first hurricane to make
landfall on the U.S. mainland since Hurricane Allen hit South Texas in August 1980. The
three year and eight day period was the longest since 1886 that the continental United States
had gone without a hurricane landfall.
After forming just south of Louisiana on the 15th, the storm drifted westward and intensified
quickly into a Category 3 hurricane before making landfall on the west end of Galveston Island
in the early morning hours of the 18th The highest winds recorded on land were 96 mph sustained,
and gusts were up to 127 mph. The lowest barometric pressure recorded on land was 28.55" at
the Alvin weather service office. Rainfall amounts exceeded 5 inches in most places, and the
east side of Houston received almost 11 inches. The highest storm surge was a 12' reading at
Seabrook on Galveston Bay. On the gulf side of Galveston Island, tides were 7.5', and on the
bay they were 8'. Baytown, on the north shore of Galveston Bay, recorded a 10.7' tide which
put water on the rooftops in the Brownwood subdivision. Severe freshwater flooding was
minimized by Alicia's fast movement inland, and most damage was the result of wind and storm
surge or a combination of the two.
23 tornadoes were reported during Alicia. 14 occurred between Galveston and Houston as the
storm made landfall, and the other 9 touched down the next day between Houston and Tyler. All
but 2 of these were small, with winds between 40-72 mph. The strongest tornado occurred near
Tyler, in Northeast Texas, with winds in the 113-157 mph range.
21 persons died as a result of Alicia. 25 others were hospitalized and 3,094 were injured or
became ill. The Red Cross provide shelter or food for 63,000 people. A total of 2,297
dwellings were destroyed and another 3,008 suffered major damage. 18,660 families suffered
losses from Alicia. The $2 billion in damages made Alicia the costliest hurricane in Texas
Some memorable features of Alicia included the final destruction of the Brownwood subdivision, a
victim of subsidence, which had experienced almost annual flooding. The hurricane provided the
opportunity for FEMA to "buy-out" the homes there and forego future flood insurance and disaster
Also, the loss of trees in the Houston area was staggering. The area had received soaking rains
during the previous week and the soil was so saturated that the trees were easily blown down by
the high winds. It is estimated that the trees and limbs blown down by the storm would have
covered a football field to a height of 1,200'.
In downtown Houston, shards of glass became deadly missiles when hundreds of window panes were
broken out of skyscrapers by gravel blown from nearby rooftops. The windows were designed to
withstand hurricane winds but not impact from debris. The result was huge piles of broken
glass in the streets below.
On Galveston's West Beach, Alicia moved the public beach boundary back an average of 150'. The
storm surge scoured up to 5' of sand from the beach and left several homes in front of the natural
vegetation line and technically on the public beach. Thus, the homes were in violation of the Texas
Open Beaches Act and the Attorney General's office forebade the repair or rebuilding of those home.
The Corps of Engineers estimated that the Galveston seawall prevented $100 million in additional
damage. The corp said that without the seawall, Alicia would have created a swath of destruction
one to two blocks into the city behind the seawall.
Although Alicia cost Texans $2 billion, it is estimated that a hurricane the size of Carla would
have doubled or tripled the damage. Aircraft observations indicated that only a 60 mile section of
the coast, extending northeastward from Freeport, experienced hurricane force winds.
Tidbit - Although 30% of Galveston's population evacuated the island when Hurricane Allen (1980)
threatened the Texas coast, only 10% of the population living behind the seawall decided to leave
when Alicia came ashore.
CHRIS (TS - September 11th landfall)
Chris made landfall near the Texas-Louisiana coast with 5-6'
tides, winds gusting to 70 mph, and 6" of rain. At landfall, the storm caused only minor flooding
and wind damage, but later spawned damaging tornadoes in Clayton, LA, and flooding in four states.
DANIELLE (TS - September 5th landfall)
Danielle made landfall near Galveston and brought heavy rainfall and flooding to southeast and central Texas.
17 inches of rainfall fell at Port Arthur.