When you move to a gulf coast area, you suddenly learn that you need to become an expert on hurricanes. There are many types of storms we see in Texas. In fact we’re pretty much subject to all major disasters except (rarely) earthquakes. We have fires and floods, droughts and pestilence, tornadoes and of course….hurricanes. In fact, with the high humidity, constant mosquitoes, flooding issues and of course….hurricanes! It’s a wonder so many people have decided to call the gulf coast home!
But this post is not about the reasons people flock to Houston and the surrounding coastal areas. There are many factors that outweigh a little bad weather when it comes to finding a great place to live, work and play. That being said, new residents to the greater Houston area need to know more about Hurricanes.
Hurricane season runs from June 1 until November 30. I’ll post separately about what common items Houstonians keep on hand to ensure readiness for any storm event. In this post, I’ll provide you with 4 myths about hurricanes and a list of Houston’s top hurricanes in the last 100 years.
4 Hurricane Myths:
1. The size and area of a hurricane determine its impact/damage probability.
No! Some of the smallest hurricane storms in history have caused the greatest damage. Take Tropical Storm Allison in 2001. Allison caused flooding and damage in areas of Houston that had never flooded before. Thousands of Houstonians were affected.
2. If you don’t live on the coast, you don’t need to worry about hurricanes.
Wrong. Although hurricanes lose their strength as they move inland, they can often dump excessive rain and cause flash flooding, tornado activity, and wind damage while moving through inland areas.
3. The stronger the storm, the bigger the storm surge. Storm surges are the most deadly part of the hurricane.
Nope. Not so. A storm surge is a dome of water pushed ashore as the hurricane makes landfall. The size of the hurricane, air flow, angle of approach, and land shape all affect the size of the storm surge so a weaker storm can still produce a large storm surge. The surge is deadly, but there are more recorded deaths from inland flooding and wind damage. Probably because most people evacuate the immediate storm surge area before it hits, thus avoiding the danger.
4. You don’t need to evacuate under evacuation order until the weather begins to get bad.
This is probably the biggest myth. If evacuation orders are issued it is to the benefit of all residents that these orders are followed. When people follow evacuation orders it cuts down on extreme traffic situations and prevents last minute chaos. When people delay, lives are lost. Typically in a hurricane the weather doesn’t get bad until the storm hits, at which point it is then too late to evacuate.
Houston Hurricane History:
- In 2008, Hurricane Ike devastated the Bolivar peninsula and Galveston Island. Damage in the gulf coast region was extensive.
- In 2001, Tropical Storm Allison — not even a hurricane — stalled out and dumped nearly 37 inches of rain on the Port of Houston over a five-day period, according to the National Weather Service. It killed 22 people and was the costliest natural disaster in Houston’s history.
- In 1983, Hurricane Alicia killed 21 Texans. Wind gusts of hurricane force in downtown Houston littered the streets with broken glass as windows broke in tall buildings.
- In 1961, massive Hurricane Carla whipped up peak winds of 175 mph. Only 46 Texas residents died, largely because about 250,000 people had evacuated.
- A 1919 hurricane came ashore south of Corpus Christi as a Category 3 on Sept. 14. The death toll is estimated at between 600 and 900 people, including more than 500 lost on ten ships that sunk or were reported missing.
- The Great Storm of 1900 is memorialized in a Galveston storm history museum. This storm killed between 8,000-12,000 residents and was the reason that Galveston built its sea wall.