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Hurricane CARLA Hits Texas Coast, Sept 1961

Damage at Galveston Texas Pleasure Pier Galveston Texas Port Aransas Causeway Padre Island Causeway Port O'Connor Texas High Tide and Hurricane Winds of Carla

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.




on the back side of Carle 5 tornados touched down
i had just returned from running the blood bank at John Sealy
someone had said when you hear the "freight train" get down
i dropped when the blast drove the shards of glass into the wall across the room
by the grace of God i am alive and can see
jim carlin md radiologist

Corrections to comments

My computer mistepped here. I meant to say the winds at Union Carbide were also 175 in a gust. Also, I had a few spelling issues, which I won't cry about if you correct, thanks.

Hurricane Carla NO BS Facts.

This report misses the true facts slightly. Hurricane Carla did minimal damage to Corpus Christi and also to Galveston, because the center passed almost exactly have way between the two. The center of Carla crossed the Coast at Port O'Connor Texas in Calhoun County, which is about 20 miles down Matagorda and Lavaca Bay system from Port Lavaca, the county seat. Highest winds were in Calhoun County. It was a big storm and yes, there were some 100+ MPH gusts in the Corpus area and also as far up the coast as the Louisiana border, but the real intensity of its category 4 winds hit Port O'connor and Port Lavaca. Port O'Connor experienced the highest of its storm surge at 21 feet. Storm surge reached about 18.5 feet in Port Lavaca. The old Lafitte hotel on the bay front on San Antonio Bay in Seadrift (aproximately 18 miles southwest of Port Lavaca and about 18 miles west of Port O'Connor) which my Aunt owned at the time, got 13 inches of water, mud, and snakes in it, and it sat on a high part of the bay front bluff. Seadrift was on the left side of the eye so it didn't receive as much surge as Port O'Connor or Port Lavaca, but it did receive about a 15 foot surge.

Maximum recorded winds were at the Alcoa Plant across the bay from Port Lavaca at 175 MPH Gust, and at about the same time also at approximately 15 MPH at the Union Carbide plant 7 miles North of Seadrift.The max sustained winds recorded at Port O'Connor were about 145 MPH, which was about as high as any recorded SUSTAINED winds were. At Port Lavaca the highest recorded SUSTAINED wind was 127 MPH.

One thing to remember, in 1961 Port Lavaca and Calhoun County were basically the Cow Pasture. There were few official recording instruments in the area and it is felt that a lot of this was guessing on the authorities part. Old salts who stayed there and road it out, said that it was way more intense than what they had experienced in past hurricanes. And some of the damage I personally saw looked to be horrific. I wouldn't call anyone a liar if they told me the highest winds WERE 200. But I can sure believe the official recordings and think they are conservative. But officials were very conservative back then. But the main gist of my message today is that the center of Carla did not pass inland at Corpus Christi OR Houston or even near it. Port Lavaca-Calhoun County caught the Brunt of Carla right on the head.

As a child (10 yo), I went

As a child (10 yo), I went through Carla also. Like your family, we cleaned up the mess. It never crossed our minds that the government owed us assistance. We were poor and used to taking care of our business. Charity was not an option, it was not wanted. We used to be a strong people. We have not changed for the better. Thank you for your honest comments.

Carla in Boling

I was about 9 during the time when Carla rolled through Boling. As I recall, when the eye-of the storm came over I left the High School and walked home. Dad was there so after an hour or so I had to go back to the thick walls of the High School.
That was my first hurricane (that I remember) certainly the first severe weather item to remember. Most importantly I realized how strong a storm could be as I watched the 3-foot thick, 100-year old, Oak trees twist as if they were little more than balsa wood.

hurricane carla

I'm reading about HC and saw your comments. Did you finish high school at Port Lavaca? Calhoun Sandcrabs 71!! We evaciatede to San Antonio. Bad memories, no power, half of the house roof gone, snakes, dead dogs-animals, no water, Army trucks all over.

David W Reyna
Semper FI

Carla hit Port Lavaca on

Carla hit Port Lavaca on Sept 11... my tenth birthday. We spent the first half of the storm in our home and then,during the eye, evacuated to the Port Lavaca fire station for the second half. I thought it was the worst B'day ever until they took out the Twin Towers in New York on my 50th B'day!

Born Sept 21, 1961

I was born in the aftermath of Hurricane Carla (Houston) which is why to this day I love severe and stormy weather. Just seems to be in my element when such destructive forces are in play. I'm told there was little electricity in the hospital I was born in and was practically born on a pool table because of the volatile weather.

Great Poem!

The May 11, 2009 issue of the New Yorker Magazine has a poem by Richard Wilbur titled "Galveston, 1961"

Worth a read. Especially for those remembering Hurricane Carla

Hurricane Carla

I remember Hurricane Carla too well! Even though I was only 9 years old at the time. I lived with my parents on the "Beach Road" (Highway 2031), just 3.5 miles south of Matagorda, Texas and located parallel to the Colorado River. I remember waking up early on the sunny morning of the day before the hurricane hit, to the sound of the local Sheriff's siren blaring as he drove slowly down the road announcing on a loudhailer for everyone to evacuate as soon as possible! The wind was brisk and there was already a few inches of sea water across the road and more in our yard. My Mom and Dad were already packing personal items for our evacuation. Unfortunately there was not enough room in the pickup for everything.
As I looked at our home through the back window of my Dad's pickup while he drove away through the slow rising water, I did not realize that would be the last view I would ever have of our home.
My Dad drove inland to La Grange Texas. We took shelter in a large high school auditorium and slept on cots. Even in La Grange the winds were fierce! I witnessed large trees being toppled outside the school. They were just ripped up by the roots. I remember the roaring sound of the wind as it blew past the building. People were talking about the winds of Carla reaching up to 200 mph.
A few days later after the passing of the storm we were allowed to go to where our home used to be... there was only a bare spot where our house had stood. The yard was flat and bare. Not a trace of anything remained. We could see grass on the remaining electric wires across the road. the waves had reached those high-line wires about 20 feet up!
The Historical town of Matagorda was spared by the just recent completion of the levee which totally surrounded the town. But I remember so well all the debris on top of that levee! The storm surge of sea water had reached the very top of that levee. Matagorda would have been completely wiped off the map if that levee had not been there.
My Dad had some friends which were living in Port O'Conner Texas just 40 miles west of where we lived. The family narrowly missed being drowned in Hurricane Carla. We visited them shortly after the storm had passed and I remember them describing the details of how they had survived. There was a story of their harrowing experience in Reader's Digest Magazine. They survived by staying on stacked desks on the second floor of the local school house tor the entire night.
I am a captain of commercial vessels and have since weathered many storms at sea. Being fully aware of what Hurricanes can do and with all the modern technology at our disposal, I am still amazed on how many people don't take Hurricanes seriously!
Never Never take Mother Nature for granted! She rules this Earth.... We only live here for a while!

article | by Dr. Radut