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.



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!

I was 6 and living in

I was 6 and living in Kingsville when Carla hit. To this day I remember my mother telling us that the eye of the storm was passing over us, and have often wondered about this in view of later accounts I read re: the eye passsing elsewhere. My father was in the Border Patrol and was on duty during most of the hurricane, though he and his partner came home at least once to nail shingles back on the house during what I thought was the eye. We moved to Texas City in 1964. The after effects of Carla were still very much in evidence there. When Betsy threatened the Texas coast the following year, several neighbors who lost everything in Carla simply packed up their entire households and moved them inland until Betsy turned on Louisiana.

Hurricane Carla

Sunday, December 28, 2008--4:22 pm CST

I was 7 years old when Hurricane Carla hit, my brother had just turned 3 years old. I was getting ready to turn 8 years old three weeks after my brother turned 3. As far as I remember, it was scary. My brother and I slept with my mother at when Carla hit.
It was just me, my mother, and my brother at the time. My father was out of town when it hit.
We lived in a suburb called Spring Branch, Texas in a White two story house.

Hurricane Carla, Galveston, Texas, 1961

Just to add a dimension and because I'm now retired and am reminiscing, my memory of Carla was as an engineer on the cargo liner RMS Escalante, out of the UK, around the Caribbean then to pick up sulpher at Galveston and return to the UK.

It was my first trip to sea as a 21 year old. Having dropped our passengers for a few days in Jamaica, we had unloaded various cargo around the Caribbean and were heading for Galveston when the hurricane warning came.

The leading winds and sea crashed over and around us, the virtual millpond eye arrived followed by the trailing mass of the hurricane.

We had waves down the funnel and I was told later that some of the more experienced seamen were "in fear of their lives". It was indeed frightening, but I was 21! More an adventure than a worry.

When we turned up in Galveston the place was in a real mess. However, I was now suffering from a wisdom tooth and was rapidly marched off to a dentist and missed the chance to photograph the scenario.

Ah, well! I,m still here to tell the tale.

Carla and Ike

I came to Houston as a young man in 1958, so I experienced both Carla and Ike. Interestingly, the storms occurred almost exactly 47 years apart.

They were both terrible storms, but I did not evacuate for either storm.

The contrast between 1961 and 2008 could not be more striking.

In 1961, there was no FEMA and I have no recollection of JFK coming to Houston/Galveston to inspect the damage. I also have no recollection of Mayor Cutrer going to Washington asking for a hand-out within days after Carla's arrival.

Everyone took it as a personal responsibility to be prepared in 1961 and, as a result, the city of Houston recovered fairly quickly. In fact, even though FEMA wasn't around to pay for the debris removal, I'm pretty sure the city got cleaned up quicker in 1961 than it will in 2008.

On January 20, 1961, at his inauguration, JFK said "Ask not what your country can do for you, rather, ask what you can do for your country". That statement reflected the then character of our formerly great nation.

To say the least, we have come a long way (in the wrong direction) since then. All we hear now is "what is the government going to do for me and how much am I going to be given and why is it taking so long for my hand-out to arrive?".

It is a sad thing to see how much our country's strength of character has changed in 47 short years.

Hurricane Carla

That's pretty neat, and interesting. I just googled Hurricane Carla because my birthday is September 22 and I just heard about Carla during the news reports about Ike. I was born in Dallas so I still need to ask my mom what she remembers about it!

We survived Carla

Was able to contact my dad on Monday who now lives in Friendswood, Texas. He's been without power for six days now, has clean running water, but with an all electric apartment no hot water. He's using a Colemanâ„¢ stove to heat/purify water when necessary. Power is being restored to stores, gasoline stations and businesses and one lineman he spoke to outside his complex said he could get power tomorrow ... or in a week! Dad is 77 years old and is a feisty hunter/outdoorsman, a survivor. He says, however, despite the heat and inconveniences he's living like a king compared to those trying to return to Galveston. Many of them are being turned back and have found their way into city parks and parking lots even where he lives. They're living out of the cars and I think local authorities are trying to get them food and water to just get them to the next day. Very primitive.

We survived Hurricane Carla. I remember being one scared seven year old who woke up early one morning to put his feet in three inches of water! The house was shaking with the constant barrage of thunder and when I scurried to my parent's bedroom, where I found my younger brother and older sister, it was like strobe light was going off outside out windoes. We lived in Alta Loma, Texas (which ironically means "high ground" in Spanish) and it turned out we had eighteen inches of water from the storm surge in our little neighborhood. I guess years ago someone had skimmed off two feet of top soil in our little country 'burb and sold it before selling the land to a developer. I believe we were only about twelve feet above sea level and only about twelve miles from the coastline as the crow flies.

The next day we must have seen ten water mocassins and any number of other snakes swimming around. My sister lost her little toy tea service (made out of something resembling porcelain ... definitely not plastic) which was in a play house dad had built as an add on to what we simply called "the shed". We always referred to that house as the "pink brick house", all 1300 square feet of it. Several years ago I found a website that had the storm track of Hurricane Carla and it had the eye tracking to our west. I had swore as a kid we went through the eye of that hurricane because I distinctly remember mom saying something like, "Get back in, the rest of the storm is coming." I have very vivid memories of a wall of clouds coming out of the south with a deep blue sky directly overhead. However, I think it may have been some confusion on my part because yet another website had the Carla eye tracking to our east. I'm still investigating. Probably what I was remembering was the evening before the storm hit and a whole wall of clouds were low in the southern horizon which must have been Carla out over the gulf waiting to come ashore. I do remember dad taping up the windows and hammering some 1x4s over the southern-facing windows and the sky was a deep blue with a few white puffy clouds overhead and the sun giving off the orangest glow I ever remember seeing.

Dad tells me we were without power for about five days and it took about two days for the water to recede. I don't remember being without power that long, as a southern Texas kid I thought it was a great adventure and wasn't really inconvienced by having to move by candlelight in the evening. Anyway, we had enough food, we had our own water well which mom boiled the water before we drank it or used it to prepare food and it was just like camping. Of course, as parents, they were very concerned about the possibility of mold and the beautiful oak floors that were going to warp up. Dad figured out a way to cut around the baseboards to let the floors and bottom plates expand without them pushing out the walls and thus possibly destroy the brickwork. Mom said she had to use Cloroxâ„¢ to kill the mold whenever it popped up. I guess it also bleached some portions of the oak flooring which my parents lamented for the next couple of years before they sold the home and we moved to La Marque Texas so dad could also be nearer to Texas City since he worked as a pumper/guage reader at Monsanto.

There you have it. We survived without any government aid or program. I believe some insurance came into play but it was a few hundreds of dollars to cover dad's cost of a new circular saw and other materials to repair the damage to the floor and baseboards. We weren't raised as whiners and I know that a lot of people have lost some very expensive homes and personal effects, but as proud Americans in 1961 we weren't whining nor looking for handouts from the government, we simply got on with life and rebuilt what we had to ourselves. A lot of people back then did that. My heart goes out to people who suffered through Ike there in Texas, particularly those who really don't have anything to repair since it was totally destroyed. But it's kind of sad when people expect government to bail them out or see it as government's fault, like the President had some kind of weather control machine that was left unattended for too long. I think the "can do" spirit and some of that good ol' American pride has been leached out of us living in the insular cocoon of our relatively high standard of living the last fifty or so years. I fear when the really bad times do come - and it will - many Americans will really be without a clue. Thank God my dad was a sportsman who taught us kids how to live off the land and to make do with next to nothing.

Hurricane Carla

I moved to Galveston after Hurricane Carla and most of the piers were gone and one of our problems was the rats and the snakes. There was a bounty on snakes because of the danger. A lot of people had moved out away from Galveston by the time i moved there
I lived in Dallas at the time of Carla and we had to leave work early because of the winds and 2 men had to hold me walking to the car because the wind was so strong. We lived in an old house and the wind broke 2 of the windows and some tree limbs.

Great information!

Thanks for the informative piece.