It Doesn’t Take a Hurricane
Images of Hurricane Ike are still vivid in the minds of many Texans. It is the last hurricane to strike Texas and perhaps the storm of our generation. It easily is the costliest hurricane to strike our state, and its effects were severe and have been long lasting. Coming ashore with a 22-foot peak storm surge, it laid waste to the Bolivar Peninsula and left a wide path of destruction on Galveston Island and all along the northern Texas Gulf Coast, extending north through all of east Texas.
Weakening from a Category 4 hurricane to a strong Category 2 hurricane at Texas landfall, Ike was the costliest American storm up to its time, and recovery projects are still on-going in Texas. Millions were without power, water and fuel for extended periods of time. Property damage in Texas was estimated to be as high as $29 billion, and the economic impact from the storm lingered long after the storm moved on to the northern states and into Canada.
But it doesn’t take a hurricane to cause widespread damage and flooding or change the record books.
Tropical Storm Claudette
In 1979, Tropical Storm Claudette produced torrential rain across southeast Texas. Hundreds of businesses and an estimated 15,000 homes were flooded and the important rice crops were destroyed. Many areas along the coastal plains reported rainfall totals over 30 inches on July 25, 1979. But the epic rain fell in Alvin. As Claudette moved north it stalled over Alvin and dropped 42 inches of rain, which is still the record for the most rainfall in the United States in a 24-hour period. Overall, Claudette was responsible for over $1 billion in damage when adjusted for today’s inflation.
Tropical Storm Charley
The most destructive aspect of a tropical storm is the storm surge. But the deadliest part is flooding. When a tropical storm stalls out somewhere, massive levels of flooding can occur. And that’s what happened to the normally dry desert town of Del Rio in August 1998.
When Charley stalled over Del Rio, it dropped over 15 inches of rain in an area where that amount of rain has nowhere to settle. The rushing water destroyed 120 homes and damaged more than a thousand buildings. Six people died and 40 were injured in the flash flooding.
Tropical Storm Allison
Still considered the “Great Flood,” Tropical Storm Allison stalled over Harris County in 2001, causing an estimated $9 billion in damage. The Houston area usually receives around 50 inches of rain in a year, but Allison dropped as much as 35 inches of rain in a five-day period in the Houston metro area, destroying or heavily damaging over 14,000 homes. An additional 34,000 homes received at least some minor damage. Allison also claimed 23 lives in Texas.
Tropical Storm Allison is the costliest U.S. tropical cyclone that never became a hurricane. It is also the only tropical storm to have its name retired.
Since the Memorial Day weekend of last year, much of Texas has seen abnormally large amounts of rain, and many of our rivers, lakes and reservoirs are full. With the saturated ground, even what would be considered normal rain events have cause widespread flooding on numerous occasions.
Take the time today to make an emergency plan and build your emergency kit. If a tropical storm of even minor intensity came ashore any time soon, the results could be devastating.