Understanding hurricane season is vital if you reside in an area susceptible to hurricanes. In Texas, areas near the Gulf Coast often get hit during hurricane season. Businesses and homeowners should adequately prepare against storms to prevent loss of life and property damage.
Annually, about 100 tropical storms and disturbances build up in the Atlantic Ocean, affecting the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. On average, two phenomena become hurricanes and make landfall in the United States. Between 1851 and 2016, 63 out of 289 hurricanes hitting the U.S. made landfall in Texas.
Learning from history will go a long way in ensuring we avoid past mistakes. Hurricanes can cause devastating losses to humans, animals, and property.
Currently, technological advancement helps in early detection and information distribution. Likewise, engineers have developed structural designs that can counter hurricane winds and floods. As an individual, you are responsible for safeguarding your loved ones and valuable properties against a hurricane and its aftermath.
When is Hurricane Season in Texas?
Different regions have different storm seasons during which they experience hurricanes and tropical storms. Hurricane season in Texas occurs during early summer and late fall and peaks in August. However, the season for tropical cyclones in Texas may extend to September and October.
Texas has 17 recorded hurricane landfalls in August, and only three in October. So, Lone Star State residents should prepare for hurricanes from June until November. According to past data, it is safe to say hurricane peak season is in August and September.
Hurricanes Routes Through Texas
Tropical storms hit Texas through two tracks. Most come in from the southeast and curve north and northeast, crushing the state’s eastern and central parts. Conversely, hurricanes that hit the lower coastline mostly favor the westward track. Examples are:
- Corpus Christi’s (1919)
- Celia (1970)
- Allen (1980)
- Charley (1998)
- Bret (1999)
- Dolly (2008)
Hurricanes hitting early and late in the season (June and October) enter from the south or southwest. The hurricanes head north and northeast across the state with minimal landfall. The reason is that tropical storms from the Eastern Pacific transverse through the Sierra Madre Occidental, the mountain range in Mexico.
Where Do Hurricanes Normally Hit In Texas?
The Texas coast is vulnerable to hurricanes affecting cities from the border, like Brownsville, up to further north in Port Arthur. Galveston and Houston have experienced the most severe storm damage in the last century.
Records between 1527 and 2009 show the following leading areas where hurricanes usually hit in Texas:
|No. of Hurricanes in the Period
|Lower TX Coast
How Often Do Hurricanes Hit Texas?
Texas residents living within the 300 miles along Gulf Coast can expect at least one landfall hurricane every six years. The annual average occurrence of hurricanes or tropical storms per annum is 0.8, or three strikes every four years.
The probability of a strike along a 50-mile segment is between 31% at Sabine Pass to 41% in Matagorda Bay.
Hurricane Cycles in Texas
A 1950s study of hurricane incidences show a pattern in hurricane cycles. According to data dating back to 1829, there are periods during which Texas experiences higher numbers of storms and stronger hurricanes than others. These periods are “hurricane rich.” Conversely, there are also periods of time which are “hurricane poor.”
Hurricane rich periods span 11 years with an average of 8 landfalls per year. Hurricane-poor periods span 14 years with an average of two landfalls per year.
Currently, Texas is entering a hurricane-rich era beginning 2023 up to 2034. In this period, there is a higher probability of experiencing hurricanes. However, a single hurricane’s landfall is enough to make life miserable for Texans living along the coast.
Are There Any Benefits of Hurricanes in Texas?
Victims of a hurricane are always left counting losses. Hurricane winds can reach over 90 mph, accompanied by heavy rainfall and flash flooding, which can be destructive. Although the impacts of hurricanes can be dire, the phenomenon has some benefits to the environment.
In the Lone Star State, there are 11 storms credited with lightening drought conditions. Hurricanes and tropical storms compensate for the shortage of summer rainfall. Without this precipitation, growing corn, rice, and cotton can be challenging because the crops are highly dependent on the extra rain.
Earlier Hurricanes on Record in Texas
The well-documented hurricanes in Texas go back to 1829. Earlier records are limited due to sparse population at the time and few surviving documents. Many ships wrecked in such storms sunk to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.
However, hurricane data from the 1850s through 2000 shows 120 tropical cyclone strikes, of which 64 were hurricanes. According to the data, the decades with the most hurricane landings are the 1880s and 1940s.
Texas is prone to hurricanes, and many have hit the state. Some storms are particularly notable in history because of the death toll, damages, and magnitude.
Here are some notable hurricanes in Texas history:
Racer’s Storm – October 2-6, 1837
It reigns as the first recorded hurricane to hit the Texas coast. The name originates from a British sloop war that suffered significantly under the hurricane on September 28th. It is regarded as the most destructive hurricane of the 19th century. The Storm covered 2,000 miles and left extreme destruction in its path.
Racer’s Storm made a landfall briefly south of Brownsville near Matamoros. It lashed the coast for three days, from October 2nd through the 4th, before halting. Along the bay, houses suffered heavy destruction, with 105 deaths.
The 1837 hurricane wrecked ships along the Brazos Santiago and Matagorda Bay coast. In Velasco, vessels were driven ashore. The aftermath of the storm affected shipping in Brazos and Velasco immensely.
From October 3rd to October 5th, the hurricane ravished Galveston with a storm surge 6 to 7 feet higher than the normal spring tides.
Major Impacts of Racer’s Storm
- Tremont Hotel blew apart
- Destruction of two churches
- Shifting of the harbor entrance
- Ships shoved inland as far as three miles
The Great Galveston Hurricane – September 7 – 9, 1900
This was the last and most devastating hurricane of the 19th century. The 1900 Galveston Hurricane towers alone in United States history regarding deaths. The most common estimate is 8,000 deaths.
In 1900, Galveston’s population was close to 30,000. Memories of past hurricane destruction were still fresh for Texans. These included Santiago in 1844, Clarksville in 1876, and Indianola in 1875 and 1886. Many people died and lost their properties.
A warning on October 6 from a hurricane post along the Gulf Coast caused about 20,000 residents to evacuate, saving many lives. Yet some residents ignored the alarm, while the adventurous wanted to observe the incoming storm. On the 8th, beaches were crowded with observers, who retreated when a wooden pagoda and its boardwalk were torn to pieces by the raging storm. For many, it was too late.
The winds of 100 mph blew off the anemometer at the weather station. Additionally, winds over 125 mph sent violent waters 15 feet high, covering Galveston. Wooden shelters were torn off their pilings and floated on flood water while smashing into one another. The destruction of houses led to more deaths as unfortunate occupants drowned in the raging waters.
Major Impacts of the Galveston Hurricane:
- Destruction of the state’s old first capitol building at West Columbia
- Partial abandonment of Quintana due to severe damage from the previous year’s hurricane and the current one
- Infestation of Flour Bluff Harbor by millions of mullet and trout in their avoidance of the catastrophe
- Over 8 inches of rainfall in Alvin
- Galveston as a port was lost
Due to the hurricane, a project to raise Galveston’s elevation began. This public works project sought to build a concrete seawall three miles long and 17 feet high. Fortunately, the wall has successfully prevented hurricane tragedies with such dire consequences. With the increase in population, people are settling beyond seawall protection.
Corpus Christi’s – September 14-16th, 1919
Corpus Christi’s devastating hurricane of 1919 originated east of the Virgin Islands on September 1st. And on the 11th, Texas authorities sounded the alarm. Galveston residents took no chances and prepared for the incoming hurricane.
Major Impacts of Corpus Christi’s Hurricane:
- 4.75 inches of rainfall in Brownsville
- Padre and Brazos Islands submerged
- 10-foot storm surge along the Matagorda peninsula, causing damage to agriculture
- 1,500 cattle perished
- 284 deaths
- S.A.U. & G. railroad west of Odem washed out
- Destruction of cotton crop and summer houses in Victoria
- Steamship Media lifted onto the docks at Port Aransas
- Estimated damages amounting to $20 million
Hurricane Harvey – August 2017
This category four hurricane is the most recent powerful storm to make landfall in Texas and Louisiana in August 2017. As a result, there were catastrophic floods, and over 100 people died. In fact, it is ranked as the costliest hurricane in the U.S., with an estimated $125 billion in damages.
Harvey is the first significant hurricane to land after a break of 12 years since Katrina in 2005. Within the four days of the storm, rainfall rose to more than 40 inches as the hurricane meandered over Eastern Texas.
The resulting floods destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes, displacing more than 30,000 residents. Rescue operations helped more than 17,000 people.
Major Impacts of Hurricane Harvey:
- 300,0000 structures destroyed
- 500,000 vehicles damaged
- Spawned 53 tornadoes across six states
- Total deaths 107 (103 in Texas, two in Arkansas, one in Kentucky, and one in Tennessee)
- 68 direct deaths in Texas, the highest number in the state since 1919
What Part of Texas is the Safest from Hurricanes?
In the U.S., hurricanes are common, with the Lone Star State getting the most hurricanes annually. So, what part of Texas is safest during hurricane season?
It’s difficult to say any single part of Texas is safe from hurricanes because hundreds of storms have hit the state between 1950 and 2021. However, by following the available data, you can pinpoint cities with a lower risk.
These are areas of Texas least likely to be hit by a hurricane:
- College Station
- El Paso
In conclusion, Texas is an excellent state, but residents should be aware of hurricane season. For example, you should heed warnings and evacuate according to procedures. Remember to pack necessities and stow away valuables that floods can destroy. And never leave your pets behind!
The photo featured at the top of this post is © lpedan/Shutterstock.com
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