Hurricane CARLA Hits Texas Coast, Sept 1961
Hurricane Carla Brings Tides Lashing Against Texas Coast
Most Intense Storm of Century Causes 400,000 Persons To Evacuate Coastal Areas of Louisiana and Texas
GALVESTON, Tex. (AP) - Carla, termed the most intense hurricane aimed at the Texas coast this century, lashed Louisiana and Texas with 173-mile-an-hour winds and battering 11-foot tides today while the center still was miles at sea.
"People left Corpus Christi who never left before," said JOHN STALLINGS of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.
More than 400,000 persons fled the coast in Texas and Louisiana in one of history's major flights, the Red Cross said.
At 9 a. m., Carla roared in the Gulf of Mexico 85 miles due east of Corpus Christi. The 173-mile wind at Port Aransas, near Corpus Christi, was estimated by the Weather Bureau.
At that hour the 30-mile-wide eye was expected to strike land this afternoon between Aransas Pass and Matagorda Bay, 75 miles northeast.
Farm losses will be close to $100 million, said JOHN WHITE, Texas agriculture commissioner.
Galveston, island city of 75,000 from which 15,000 fled, was completely isolated.
At Port Aransas, on low-lying Mustang Island just off the Texas coast, 95 persons remained, including a few citizens and a dispatchment of Coast Guardsmen, 15 feet off the ground in an elevated house.
They had no choice except to ride out the wind and tides. All communications to them were out.
As far inland as Bay City, 20 miles from the coast, Carla's slashing winds ripped out power service and telephone communications.
At Port Lavaca, on Matagorda Bay, 9,200 of the city's 10,000 persons left for high ground and winds reached 70 m. p. h.
Shortly after daybreak, tides surged to 10.7 feet above normal at Port Aransas.
Sheet metal, poles, broken glass and trees flew through the air in Corpus Christi. National Guardsmen patrolled against looting.
Corpus Christi reported nearly five inches of rain since midnight and the deluge continued. Thousands of telephones were out of operation there.
Surging waves tossed a large shrimp boat atop a 15 foot seawall. All of North Beach at Corpus Christi flooded. It is crowded with beach houses and motels.
The Weather Bureau office in Chicago, labeling Carla the most intense hurricane to strike the Texas coast this century, said perhaps it may be the worst in Texas history.
An official forecaster said Carla at one point indicated a potential for developing winds up to 200 m. p. h. But this no longer was the case.
Well in advance of the hurricane's main force, tides nearly 20 feet above normal flooded scores of cities and towns. Water rushed through multi-million dollar industrial plants along 200 miles of the coast.
Towering waves and winds hitting up to 140 m. p. h. in gusts wrecked piers, beach houses and boats, and knocked out power and communications.
Four tornadoes spawned by squall lines ahead of Carla slashed through southern Louisiana during the night. At Kaplan, one of the twisters killed 4-weeks-old NANCY ANN SIMON, injured 50 persons, and damaged or destroyed 50 homes.
The hurricane itself, however, struck at ghost towns and cities on a deserted shoreline.
As the hurricane drew nearer, winds estimated up to 90 m. p. h. whipped blinding rain in almost horizontal sheets through Corpus Christi. Broken electric wires sputtered on the ground in place.
Battered pieces of metal, broken glass and sections of pipe littered Corpus Christi streets. Store windows were smashed in the business district. House trailers were overturned.
In water-logged Galveston, an island resort center, the wind hit up to 114 m. p. h. before dawn. Water stood two to three feet deep in the streets. Ten-foot tides dashed waves against the city's 17-foot seawall.
The Weather Bureau predicted winds up to 80 m. p. h. in Houston, 50 miles inland from Galveston. Countless industries were shut and traffic was at a standstill in the Houston ship channel. Continuing rains promised considerable flooding in Houston.
In one of the largest mass evacuations ever in this country, between 300,000 and 400,000 residents along the Texas and Louisiana coast fled northward to escape the approaching storm.
Highways were jammed by solid lines of automobiles. Coastal residents loaded their cars with clothing, food, and family pets and drove inland. They went to Beaumont, Houston, Bryan, San Antonio, Austin, Waco, and scores of other points.
Finding refugee centers, motels and hotels filled, many went as far north as Dallas and as for west as Laredo on the Mexican border, to find shelter.
Galveston Island, where Chief of Police W. L. BURNS estimated only 15,000 of the 73,000 residents remained, was completely cut off from the mainland. Many coastal roads on the mainland were blocked by water from the high tides.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise New York 1961-09-11
Researched and Transcribed by Stu Beitler. Thank you, Stu!