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Historical Hurricane Activity

Hurricane Ike (2008)

Hurricane Ike made landfall in Galveston, Texas on September 13, 2008. Ike claimed the lives of 112 people and caused $29.2 billion (in 2013 dollars) in damages [1]. This extremely large Category 2 [2] hurricane resulted in the most significant surge event for Texas in decades. Flood elevations were 3 m (10 ft) or higher over a 200-km distance (e.g., East, J.W., et al.,2008 [3]). Highest flood elevations, near 6.0 m (20 ft) were reported on Bolivar Island [4].

This storm also brought with it very large, destructive waves, rain, and wind. Maximum sustained wind speed at landfall was 175 km/h (95 kt). Rainfall and wind strength were moderate, when compared with other hurricanes. Yet, Ike's large size meant wind-related damages were widespread across seven states, including Texas.

Surge and wave damage by Hurricane Ike (photo courtesy of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers).Surge and wave damage by Hurricane Ike (photo courtesy of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers).

Why was there flooding a day before landfall?

A unique feature of Hurricane Ike was the early arrival of surge-related flooding, called a "forerunner." Kennedy et al. [5] showed that Coriolis forces acting on the coastal currents generated by Ike's winds caused this forerunner. Coriolis force is caused by the earth's rotation. The Coriolis effect also causes hurricanes to rotate counter-clockwise in the Northern hemisphere.

Hurricane Ike forerunner on September 12, 2008 (photo courtesy of J. Augustino, FEMA).Hurricane Ike forerunner on September 12, 2008 (photo courtesy of J. Augustino, FEMA).

Hurricane Carla (1961)

Hurricane Carla is the most intense hurricane to hit Texas since 1900 (National Weather Service, 2011). On September 11, 1961, Carla made landfall on Matagorda Island. At landfall, Carla was a large Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds onshore of 215 km/h (115 kt). The storm claimed 46 lives and caused extensive damage throughout Texas—$2.4 billion (in 2013 dollars). Wind, surge, and large waves were the primary threat during this storm. Flood elevations were 3 m (10 ft) or higher over more than a 200-km distance [6],[7]. Highest flood elevations of 6.7 m (22 ft) were reported at Port Lavaca.

Surge and wave damage during Hurricane Carla (photo courtesy of National Weather Service).Surge and wave damage during Hurricane Carla (photo courtesy of National Weather Service).

Tropical Storm Allison (2001)

Tropical Storm Allison was the first storm of the 2001 Atlantic hurricane season that formed on June 5th in the northwest Gulf of Mexico and struck the upper Texas coast [8]. It drifted northward through the state, turned back to the south, and re-entered the Gulf of Mexico. Due to slow movement and unusual path, TS Allison dropped heavy rainfall along its path, peaking at over 40 inches (1,000 mm) in Texas [9]and caused extreme flooding. The worst flooding occurred in Houston, where 23 people were killed and the floods caused $1.76 billion (2001 USD) in damages [10].

Track of TS Allison and the total precipitation (in.) generated by the storm.Track of TS Allison and the total precipitation (in.) generated by the storm.

The Galveston Hurricane of 1900

The Galveston Hurricane of 1900, which is the deadliest and the second costliest hurricane in U.S. history, made landfall on September 8, 1900 in the city of Galveston, Texas. It had estimated winds of 145 miles per hour (233 km/h) at landfall (Category 4) along with a storm surge of over 15 feet (4.6 m). The hurricane caused great loss of life with the estimated death toll between 6,000 and 12,000 individuals [11] and $ 99.4 billion (2005 USD) property damage [12].

Residents scour through the rubble left by the Galveston hurricane, which devastated the city and killed between 6,000 and 12,000 people (photo The Weather Channel).Residents scour through the rubble left by the Galveston hurricane, which devastated the city and killed between 6,000 and 12,000 people (photo The Weather Channel).

Reference

[1] Lott, N., et al., Billion-dollar U.S. weather/climate disasters 1980-2012, National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, NC, 6 pp, 2013.

[2] Berg, R., Tropical cyclone report Hurricane Ike (AL092008) 1–14 September 2008, 55 pp., Natl. Hurricane Cent., Miami, FL, 2009.

[3] East, J.W., et al., Monitoring inland storm surge and flooding from Hurricane Ike in Texas and Louisiana, September 2008, U.S. Geological Survey Open File Report, 20081365, 38 pp., 2008.

[4] Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA P-757, Hurricane Ike in Texas and Louisiana: Mitigation Assessment Team Report, Building Performance Observations, Recommendations, and Technical Guidance. https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/15498?id=3577. 2009

[5] Kennedy, A.B., et al., Origin of the Hurricane Ike forerunner surge, Geophys. Res. Lett., 38, L08608, 2011.

[6] U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Report on Hurricane Carla September 9–12, 123 pp., Galveston, TX, 1961.

[7] Irish, J.L., Song, Y.K., Chang, K.-A., Probilistic hurricane surge forecasting using parameterized surge response functions, Geophys. Res. Lett., 38, L03606, 2011.

[8] John P. Ivey, Flood Safety and Tropical Strom Allison, Retrieved 2006-05-15. http://www.floodsafety.com/media/pdfs/texas/ivey.pdf, 2002.

[9] Hydrometeoroloical Prediction Center, Rainfall totals from Tropical Storm Allison, Retrieved 2006-05-17. http://www.wpc.ncep.noaa.gov/tropical/rain/allison2001.html, 2006.

[10] National Hurricane Center, Tropical Storm Allison Tropical Cyclone Report. Retrieved 2006-05-15. http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/2001allison.html, 2001.

[11] Weems, John Edward. Galveston Hurricane of 1900. Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved on November 27, 2008.

[12] Eric S. Blake, Christopher W. Landsea, Ethan J. Gibney, The Deadliest, Costliest, and Most Intense United States Tropical Cyclones from 1851 to 2010 (and Other Frequently Requested Hurricane Facts). http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/pdf/nws-nhc-6.pdf.

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