I realize most of you will most likely have absolutely no interest in this post. Because of my career field, I sometimes feel an obligation to put things out there relevant to the season or the reason or just to do my part in raising awareness. So, if you aren’t interested in hurricanes and the Rio Grande Valley, just click off now. I’ll be back soon with something not as work related … I promise. For a quick update though – the beast is up but not raging; the weather is dreadfully hot & humid right now. Coach is done with school… well the teaching aspect of school. Coaching still goes on – strength & conditioning, summer camps & clinics, and before we know it, two-a-days will be upon us.
And now, on to the emergency management, preparedness, raising awareness stuff….
Each year around this time a risk analysis is needed. That’s part of my job description. Hazard vulnerability… loads of research to determine probability, risk, and magnitude of potential hazardous threats – determination to the best of my ability. So far, I’ve done pretty well with my predictions. Go me! The one concern most everyone in the tip o’ Texas has deals with hurricanes. I can understand that but at the same time, well, the probability of #hurricanes hitting this part of the state is actually quite low for us. The shape of the land, the Gulf of Mexico, the trade winds, and lots of other things offer us some protection… unlike further up the coast of Texas and into Louisiana. But hurricanes it is… and since hurricane season officially starts at midnight, well here you go –
Hurricane Beulah – 1967
Killer hurricane #Beulah ripped through the Caribbean Sea, across the Yucatan Peninsula to the Gulf of Mexico, before finally bringing her wrath to southern Texas. In her devastating wake Beulah left at least 41 people dead, thousands homeless, and more than $1 billion in property and crop damage. Texas was hardest hit. Floods resulting from the storm’s torrential rains, aided initially by strong winds caused most of the damage. Beulah began harmlessly as a weak tropical depression, east of the Windward Islands, on September 5th.
The third largest hurricane of record, Hurricane Beulah moved inland near the mouth of the Rio Grande on the 20th. Wind gusts of 136 mph were reported during Beulah’s passage. Rains 10 to 20 inches over much of the area south of San Antonio resulted in record-breaking floods. An unofficial gaging station at Falfurrias registered the highest accumulated rainfall, 36 inches. The resultant stream overflow and surface runoff inundated 1.4 million acres. Beulah spawned 115 tornadoes, all in Texas, the greatest number of tornadoes on record for any hurricane. Hurricane Beulah caused 13 deaths and 37 injuries, of which five deaths and 34 injuries were attributed to tornadoes. Property losses were estimated at $100 million and crop losses at $50 million.
Hurricane Beulah caused extensive flooding on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. To escape the rising flood waters, over 14,000 refugees from Camargo, Tamaulipas crossed the border into the small towns of Roma and Rio Grande City, Texas. The refugees were in desperate need of food, shelter, and medical care. While there have been hurricanes to hit the South Texas Coast, and more specifically, those that have impacted the #RGV (Brownsville, McAllen, Edinburg), the number of storms is actually quite low.
While the Rio Grande Valley and Deep South Texas have rarely seen a storm the magnitude of the Great Galveston Hurricane, a number of significant events have affected the region since the late 19th century. The following is a summary of the most notable storms:
Nearly 26 inches of rain inundated the city of Brownsville from a storm that inched northward along the coast, later swamping Indianola with storm surge for the second time that year.
September 4th and 5th, 1933
A 13 foot storm surge inundated coastal Cameron County. All dunes on South Padre Island were leveled, and over 40 separate cuts were produced by the battering surf. It was told that developed areas along the coast were abandoned until after World War II.
September 20th-22nd, 1967 Hurricane Beulah
This storm remains the significant storm of record for longtime residents of the Rio Grande Valley and Deep South Texas. One or more impacts from #wind and #flooding and #stormsurge affected people from Cameron to Zapata County. A ship in the Port of Brownsville observed winds of 136 mph. Gusts to 109 mph were recorded at the Brownsville Airport before the device was bent and inoperable, and gusts to 100 mph were noted as far inland as Pharr and Edinburg. An estimated storm tide of 8 to 14 feet swept South Padre Island, Port Isabel, and Boca Chica; tides were measured as high as 18 feet along the Cameron/Willacy County line south of Port Mansfield.
The slowing storm eased across Willacy and Brooks County, then moved briefly into Duval and Webb County before returning southwest and dissipating in northern Mexico. Beulah’s slow movement and relatively large size dropped tremendous rains across Starr, Hidalgo, and Brooks County. Overflowing creeks inundated Falfurrias, and excessive water flowing down the Rio Grande and into adjacent floodways flooded homes up to their rooftops in Harlingen.
August 10th, 1980 Hurricane Allen
This was a formidable Category 5 storm on the Saffir Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale just prior to entering the Gulf, but weakened to a Category 3 just prior to landfall near Port Mansfield as dry air infiltrated the cyclone as it slowly edged onshore. A brief wind gust of 138 mph was reported at Port Mansfield where significant damage occurred. Other reports had buildings in Brownsville inundated with 4 feet or water, most likely from rainfall. Uninhabited Padre Island had 68 new cuts from the impressive Storm Surge, which reached 12 feet at Port Mansfield and likely much higher to the north. The landfall of the most intense portion of the eyewall north of the Lower Rio Grande Valley spared the region from what would have been one of the worst storms on record.
September 16th and 17th, 1988 Hurricane Gilbert
Gilbert became the strongest storm on record for the Atlantic basin for its time, packing 185 mph sustained winds and reaching a central pressure of 888 mb prior to ravaging Cozumel, México on its way toward the western Gulf. Gilbert weakened considerably after striking the northern Yucatan peninsula before making a modest comeback to Category 3 (115 mph) before making landfall in Tamaulipas. Impacts on the Rio Grande Valley were felt in stages. The first stage was a notable storm surge that flooded South Padre Island, and hurricane force wind gusts to 83 mph, in Coastal Cameron and Willacy County. The second stage was flooding along the Rio Grande, a result of very heavy rain flowing from the Sierra Madre Oriental into the basin. While no comparison with Beulah (1967) and 1971 (Fern and Edith), the flow would require the opening of the Rio Grande Flood Control Project (floodway).