BY: Jill F. Hasling
Certified Consulting Meteorologist
Weather Research Center - Houston, Texas

Anyone that lives along the Gulf coast, including Houston, should be aware of the threat from hurricanes and tropical storms to their lives and property. Every resident of Houston should know the risk that they are exposed to by the weather. The devastion from a hurricane is caused by wind, rainfall flooding, tornadoes and storm surge flooding.

Storm surge is reponsible for 90% of the deaths in hurricanes and a very large portion of the property loss associated with hurricanes. It is generally accepted that buildings and houses along the coast that lie below the 25 foot elevation are vulnerable to storm surge flooding. Within the Houston city limits, only a small portion of far southeast Houston could be expected to be affected by a storm surge from an intense hurricane. Therefore, most of Houston would not need to evacuate. If your property lies below the 25 elevation and has flooded before; if you live on the edge of bayous that are liable to overflow; or if you live in a mobile home, make plans to evacuate when a hurricane threatens the upper Texas Coast.

Most of the damage in Houston will result from high winds, tornadoes and rainfall flooding. It would be reasonable for residents of Houston to expect winds, from a nominal hurricane, in excess of 75 mph, and the damage that would result from these type of winds. Along with high winds, it would not be unreasonable for residents of Houston to be affected by tornadoes associated with hurricanes. Tornadoes always pose a threat in a hurricane area. Loss of life can be minimized by the high winds or a tornado by locating a safe place, within your home such as an inside closet and bathrooms.

Another danger from hurricanes for Houston, is flooding. Hurricanes can sometimes produce enormous amounts of rainfall which can cause widespread damage to homes and businesses. During a hurricane when the storm surge is pushed up into the natural drainage system such as bayous, the runoff from rainfall is a slower process allowing bayous and ditches to back up and cause flooding. If you live in an area of Houston that is in the 100 year flood plain or in an area that is at a low elevation (the height of your property above mean sea level), you would most likely want to seek higher ground. You can expect to experience flooding.

The most important things to remember when a hurricane threatens are not to panic and to be prepared. Have a plan of action before the weather threatens and know what you will do in advance.

If you are buidling you own home, have the builder use hurricane clips, this can save you lost of damage due to severe weather.

The following table gives the hurricanes in the past that have affected the Houston area.

1989OCT 12-16JERRY1
1989JUL 30 - AUG 3CHANTAL1
1986JUN 23-26BONNIE 1
1983AUG 15-21ALICIA3
1963SEP 16-19CINDY1
1961SEP 3-15CARLA4
1959JUL 22-26DEBRA1
1949SEP 22-OCT 6-2
1947AUG 18-27-1
1943JUL 25-29-2/3
1942AUG 17-22-1
1915AUG 5-24-4
1909JUL 13-22-3
1900AUG 27 - SEP 15-4
1888JUN 16-18-1
1886AUG 12-21-4
1875SEP 6-19-4
1871SEP 30- OCT 6-1
1867OCT 1-3-1
1854SEP 15-19-2

Weather Research Center
5104 Caroline St. Houston, Texas 77004
(713) 529-3076