was one of two Category 5 tropical cyclones
during the 1961 Atlantic hurricane season
. It struck the Texas
coast as a Category 4 hurricane, becoming one of the most powerful storms to ever strike the United States
and the strongest ever to hit Texas. The storm caused over $2 billion (2005 US dollars
) in damages, but due to the evacuation of over 500,000 residents the death toll was only 43.
A tropical depression developed in the western Caribbean Sea
on September 3
from a disturbance in the Intertropical Convergence Zone
. It moved northwestward, becoming a tropical storm on the 5th and a hurricane on the 6th. After skimming the Yucatán Peninsula
as a weak hurricane, Carla entered the Gulf of Mexico
and headed for the U.S. Gulf Coast
As it moved slowly across the Gulf of Mexico, Carla steadily strengthened to its peak of 175 mph (280 km/h) winds (Category 5 intensity) on September 11. Just before landfall, it weakened, but Carla was still a very strong and unusually large Category 4 hurricane at its landfall between Port O'Connor and Port Lavaca, Texas, on the 11th. At the time, Carla became the largest hurricane on record in the Atlantic basin. Along the entire Texas coast, hurricane warnings were put into effect, causing a large evacuation of low-lying areas.
was measured at 22 feet (6.6 m) near the heads of bays, in some places penetrating 10 miles inland. Because of its large size, the entire Texas coast was affected, and damage was reported as far inland as Dallas
. Sustained winds were reported to be 115 mph in Matagorda
, 110 mph in Victoria
and 88 mph in Galveston
. Wind gusts as high as 170 mph were recorded at Port Lavaca. Pressure at landfall was measured at 931 mb
), making it the eighth most intense hurricane to strike the United States
in the 20th century. Then little-known newsman Dan Rather
reported live from the Galveston Seawall during the storm, an act that would be imitated by later reporters. This marked the first live television
broadcast of a hurricane.
Much of the damage was done well away from the landfall site, as Carla spawned one of the largest hurricane-related tornado outbreaks on record at the time, when 26 tornadoes touched down within its circulation. One F4 tornado ripped through downtown Galveston, killing several (sources differ on the exact number, varying from 6 to 12). Outside the protection of the Galveston Seawall, structures on the island were severely damaged by storm surge. Damage was reported as far east as the Mississippi River delta.
As Carla weakened, it dropped heavy rain in the Midwest.
Carla killed 43 people, 31 of them in Texas. The low death toll is credited to what was then the largest peacetime evacuation in US history. One half million residents headed inland from exposed coastal areas. Carla caused a total of $325 million (1961 USD, $2.03 billion 2005 USD) in damage.
Owing to the intensity of and destruction by the storm the name Carla was retired and will never be used for an Atlantic hurricane
again. It was replaced by Carol in the 1965 season
Notes and References