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Texas Hurricane History:
Late 19th Century

David Roth*
National Weather Service
Lake Charles, LA

 

June 25th, 1851: A short yet severe storm passed over Matagorda Bay and was described as the most disastrous experienced as of that time. Salt water contaminated the water supply at Saluria on Matagorda Island. Every wharf at Port Lavaca was destroyed by the wind. Indianola suffered damage to buildings on the Bay, but the storm surge did not cover the spit of land it stood upon, creating a false sense of security. Victoria citizens were "greatly annoyed" that all their mail was swept into Matagorda Bay.

September 17-19th, 1854: Hurricane hit Matagorda/Galveston. The main impact of the storm was around Matagorda and Lavaca Bays. The town of Matagorda was leveled. Saluria suffered $20,000 in damage. Merchants on the Strand and Market Streets in Galveston suffered much water damage from the storm surge. Brazoria also encountered strong winds from the storm. Crops of sugar cane and cotton were ruined. Every wharf in Matagorda Bay was carried away. The storm surge went through with such force that the channel was straightened and deepened by two feet. Many small vessels capsized. The little steamer Nick Hill went down near Dollar Point, in Galveston Bay. The steamer Kate Ward and her crew proved a total loss.  The system then moved northwest over Columbus, and in its dissipating stage became a widespread rainstorm over the Western and Central Gulf Coast causing 5.55" of rain at Baton Rouge between the 17th and 21st with rain falling as far east as Pensacola. Four lives were lost in the town of Matagorda.

September 13th, 1865: A hurricane hit Southwestern Louisiana. At Bagdad, near the Mouth of the Rio Grande, backwater flooding and swells from the storm inundated town. The schooner Lone Star was wrecked near Redfish Bar on Galveston Bay, in nine feet of water. By the time the steamer Nashua was sent in search of survivors, the Lone Star had gone to pieces. Survivors were scattered widely across the area. One of the sloops almost foundered itself in the high winds. All cargo of the Lone Star was lost. For what the storm did in Louisiana, check out our Louisiana Hurricane History.

July 15th, 1866: A tropical storm struck Port O'Connor. It was considered severe, but no lives or buildings were lost. For what this storm did along the Louisiana Coast, go no further than our Louisiana Hurricane History.  During the Civil War, most of the Confederacy's cotton was shipped out of South Texas and Mexico. Two communities at the mouth of the Rio Grande boomed because of this commerce, particularly the town of Baghdad on the Mexican side of the river, which grew to a population of several thousand. Clarksville, on the U.S.. side, was much smaller. Baghdad had a reputation for lusty living and was compared to New Orleans in its style.

On October 2nd-3rd, 1867, An intense hurricane struck the mouth of the Rio Grande with great fury and devastated both cities. Clarksville was soon abandoned, and a later storm in 1874 finished off Baghdad. A few glass and metal relics buried in the sand are all that remain of both towns. The population at their peaks totaled over 20,000.  All wharves were nearly demolished. It was considered the most severe and disastrous in the city's history, up to that time. Galveston was inundated by the storm surge on the 3rd, which was measured at 1 foot higher than the 1854 storm. All wharves were nearly demolished. Mud slides buried Matamoros.  This storm followed a path similar to the Racer's Storm, and produced great damage along the entire coast. It is regarded as the first "million dollar" hurricane in Texas. In an editorial after the storm in the "Ranchero," a Brownsville newspaper that evolved into the present day Brownsville Herald, the editor asked the question, "What would happen if a similar storm struck Galveston directly as it had the lower coast?"

August 16, 1869: A hurricane struck the lower Texas coast, doing the most damage at Refugio and Indianola. Several houses were blown off their foundations in Rockport, St. Mary's, and Saluria. The storm surge invaded Indianola, leaving water in the streets that was one foot deep. Limited damage was also seen at Corpus Christi.

June 2-3rd, 1871: Hurricane struck the Texas coast. Lowest pressure at Galveston was 29.51" and 15.57" of rain fell during the storm. Port Aransas recorded an extraordinary high tide and gale force winds.

June 9th, 1871: This hurricane moved through East Texas. In Galveston, it wrecked many ships and leveled St. Patrick church. Several houses were leveled and the east end of the Island flooded. Winds blew the roof off the Catholic church in Refugio, killing one person. The Virginia Dare grounded on the outer sandbar off the beach of Galveston. Its crew was rescued.

September 30th-October 2nd, 1871: The third hurricane affect Texas that season moved just offshore the length of the coast. A ship named the S.S.. Hall sunk during the storm; all hands were lost. On Mustang Island, it was the severest gale in 16 years. Tides at Indianola were the highest since 1844; most of the town flooded. The jail at Lavaca was washed away. Many people died in the tempest.

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* Author's current affiliation: NWS National Centers for Environmental Prediction - Hydrometeorological Prediction Center, Camp Springs, Maryland


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