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States that border the Gulf of Mexico are shown in red.
|Principal cities|| Houston |
|Largest metropolitan area||Greater Houston|
The Gulf Coast of the United States is the coastline along the Southern United States where they meet the Gulf of Mexico. The coastal states that have a shoreline on the Gulf of Mexico are Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, and these are known as the Gulf States.
The economy of the Gulf Coast area is dominated by industries related to energy, petrochemicals, fishing, aerospace, agriculture, and tourism. The large cities of the region are (from west to east) McAllen, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Houston, Galveston, Beaumont, Lake Charles, Lafayette, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Gulfport, Biloxi, Mobile, Pensacola, Tallahassee, St. Petersburg, Tampa, and increasingly, Sarasota. All are the centers of their respective metropolitan areas and most contain large ports. (Baton Rouge is relatively far from the Gulf of Mexico; its port is on the Mississippi River, as is the port of New Orleans.)
The Gulf Coast is made of many inlets, bays, and lagoons. The coast is also intersected by numerous rivers, the largest of which is the Mississippi River. Much of the land along the Gulf Coast is, or was, marshland. Ringing the Gulf Coast is the Gulf Coastal Plain, which reaches from Southern Texas to the western Florida Panhandle, while the western portions of the Gulf Coast are made up of many barrier islands and peninsulas, including the 130-mile (210 km) Padre Island along the Texas coast. These landforms protect numerous bays and inlets providing as a barrier to oncoming waves. The central part of the Gulf Coast, from eastern Texas through Louisiana, consists primarily of marshland. The eastern part of the Gulf Coast, predominantly Florida, is dotted with many bays and inlets.
The Gulf Coast climate is humid subtropical, although the southwestern tip of Florida, such as Everglades City, features a tropical climate. Much of the year is warm to hot along the Gulf Coast, while the 3 winter months bring periods of cool (or rarely, cold) weather mixed with mild temperatures. The area is vulnerable to hurricanes as well as floods and severe thunderstorms. Much of the Gulf Coast has a summer precipitation maximum, with July or August commonly the wettest month due to the combination of frequent summer thunderstorms produced by relentless heat and humidity, and tropical weather systems (tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes), while winter and early spring rainfall also can be heavy. This pattern is evident at Houston, Texas, New Orleans, Louisiana, Mobile, Alabama and Pensacola, Florida. However, the central and southern Florida peninsula and South Texas has a pronounced winter dry season, as at Tampa and Fort Myers, Florida. On the central and southern Texas coast, winter, early spring and mid-summer are markedly drier, and September is the wettest month on average (as at Corpus Christi and Brownsville, Texas). Tornadoes are infrequent at the coast but do occur; however, they occur more frequently in inland portions of Gulf Coast states. Over most of the Gulf Coast from Houston, Texas eastward, extreme rainfall events are a significant threat, commonly from tropical weather systems, which can bring 4 to 10 or more inches of rain in a single day. In August 2017, Hurricane Harvey made landfall along the central Texas coast, then migrated to and stalled over the greater Houston area for several days, producing extreme, unprecedented rainfall totals of over 40 inches (1,000 mm) in many areas, unleashing widespread flooding. Earthquakes are extremely rare to the area, but a surprising 6.0 earthquake in the Gulf of Mexico on September 10, 2006, could be felt from the cities of New Orleans to Tampa.
The Gulf Coast is a major center of economic activity. The marshlands along the Louisiana and Texas coasts provide breeding grounds and nurseries for ocean life that drive the fishing and shrimping industries. The Port of South Louisiana (Metropolitan New Orleans in Laplace) and the Port of Houston are two of the ten busiest ports in the world by cargo volume.As of 2004, seven of the top ten busiest ports in the U.S. are on the Gulf Coast.
The discovery of oil and gas deposits along the coast and offshore, combined with easy access to shipping, have made the Gulf Coast the heart of the U.S. petrochemical industry. The coast contains nearly 4,000 oil platforms.
Besides the above, the region features other important industries including aerospace and biomedical research, as well as older industries such as agriculture and — especially since the development of the Gulf Coast beginning in the 1920s and the increase in wealth throughout the United States — tourism.
Before Europeans arrived in the region, the region was home to several pre-Columbian kingdoms that had extensive trade networks with empires such as the Aztecs and the Mississippi Mound Builders. Shark and alligator teeth and shells from the Gulf have been found as far north as Ohio, in the mounds of the Hopewell culture.
The first Europeans to settle the Gulf Coast were primarily the French and the Spanish. The Louisiana Purchase, Adams–Onís Treaty and the Texas Revolution made the Gulf Coast a part of the United States during the first half of the 19th century. As the U.S. population continued to expand its frontiers westward, the Gulf Coast was a natural magnet in the South providing access to shipping lanes and both national and international commerce. The development of sugar and cotton production (enabled by slavery) allowed the South to prosper. By the mid 19th century the city of New Orleans, being situated as a key to commerce on the Mississippi River and in the Gulf, had become the largest U.S. city not on the Atlantic seaboard and the fourth largest in the U.S. overall.
Two major events were turning points in the earlier history of the Gulf Coast region. The first was the American Civil War, which caused severe damage to some economic sectors in the South, including the Gulf Coast. The second event was the Galveston Hurricane of 1900. At the end of the 19th century Galveston was, with New Orleans, one of the most developed cities in the region. The city had the third busiest port in the U.S.and its financial district was known as the "Wall Street of the South". The storm mostly destroyed the city, which has never regained its former glory, and set back development in the region.
Since then the Gulf Coast has been hit with numerous other hurricanes. On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast as a Category 4 hurricane. It was the most damaging storm in the history of the United States, causing upwards of $80 billion in damages, and leaving over 1,800 dead. Again in 2008 the Gulf Coast was struck by a catastrophic hurricane. Due to its immense size, Hurricane Ike caused devastation from the Louisiana coastline all the way to the Kenedy County, Texas region near Corpus Christi.In addition, Ike caused flooding and significant damage along the Mississippi coastline and the Florida Panhandle Ike killed 112 people and left upwards of 300 people missing, never to be found. Hurricane Ike was the third most damaging storm in the history of the United States, causing more than $25 billion in damage along the coast, leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless, and sparking the largest search-and-rescue operation in U.S. history.
Other than the hurricanes, the Gulf Coast has redeveloped dramatically over the course of the 20th century. The gulf coast is highly populated. The petrochemical industry, launched with the major discoveries of oil in Texas and spurred on by further discoveries in the Gulf waters, has been a vehicle for development in the central and western Gulf which has spawned development on a variety of fronts in these regions. Texas in particular has benefited tremendously from this industry over the course of the 20th century and economic diversification has made the state a magnet for population and home to more Fortune 500 companies than any other U.S. state. Florida has grown as well, driven to a great extent by its long established tourism industry but also by its position as a gateway to the Caribbean and Latin America. As of 2006, these two states are the second and fourth most populous states in the nation, respectively (see this article). Other areas of the Gulf Coast have benefited less, though economic development fueled by tourism has greatly increased property values along the coast, and is now a severe danger to the valuable but fragile ecosystems of the Gulf Coast.
The following table lists the 15 largest MSAs along the Gulf Coast.
|Rank||Metropolitan Statistical Area||2016 Pop (est.)||2000 Pop||Δ Pop||Combined Statistical Area|
|1||Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX MSA||6,772,470||4,715,407||+24.43%||Houston-Baytown-Huntsville, TX CSA|
|2||Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL MSA||3,032,171||2,395,997||+14.66%||primary census statistical area|
|3||New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, LA MSA||1,268,883||1,316,510||-9.61%||New Orleans-Metairie-Bogalusa, LA CSA|
|4||McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX MSA||849,843||569,463||+30.15%||primary census statistical area|
|5||Baton Rouge MSA||835,175||729,361||+11.03%||primary census statistical area|
|6||North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota, FL MSA||788,457||589,959||+16.64%||Sarasota-Bradenton-Punta Gorda, FL CSA|
|7||Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL MSA||722,336||440,888||+33.12%||primary census statistical area|
|8||Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, FL MSA||485,684||412,153||+10.42%||primary census statistical area|
|9||Corpus Christi, TX MSA||454,726||403,280||+3.18%||Corpus Christi-Kingsville, TX CSA|
|11||Mobile, AL MSA||414,836||399,843||+2.97%||Mobile-Daphne-Fairhope, AL CSA|
|10||Brownsville–Harlingen, TX MSA||422,135||335,227||+18.24%||Brownsville-Harlingen-Raymondville, TX CSA|
|12||Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX MSA||409,968||385,090||-1.72%||primary census statistical area|
|14||Naples-Marco Island, FL MSA||318,537||251,377||+26.72%||primary census statistical area|
|13||Gulfport-Biloxi, MS MSA||365,136||246,190||-3.01%||Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula, MS CSA|
|15||Houma-Bayou Cane-Thibodaux, LA MSA||211,525||194,477||+4.37%||primary census statistical area|
|Highway||Significant Cities Served|
|Houston, Baytown, Beaumont, Lake Charles, Lafayette, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Gulfport, Biloxi, Mobile, Pensacola|
|New Orleans (future), Houma (future), Thibodaux (future), Lafayette|
|Victoria (future), Houston|
|Brownsville, Harlingen, Corpus Christi, Victoria (future)|
|Naples, Fort Myers, North Port, Sarasota, Bradenton, St. Petersburg, Tampa|
|Highway||Significant Cities Served|
|St. Petersburg, Tampa|
|Naples, Fort Myers, Sarasota, Bradenton, St. Petersburg, Tampa|
|Beaumont, Port Arthur|
|Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Harlingen, Victoria|
|Port Lavaca, Victoria|
|Beaumont, Biloxi, Crestview, Houma, Houston, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Mobile, New Orleans, Pascagoula, Pensacola, Thibodaux|
|St. Petersburg, Tampa|
|Beaumont, Port Arthur|
|Fort Walton Beach, Mobile, Pensacola, Panama City|
|Highway||Significant Cities Served|
|Grand Isle, Port Fourchon, Thibodaux|
|Crestview, Fort Walton Beach|
|Houston, Bay City, Port Lavaca, Rockport, Corpus Christi|
|Houston, Lake Jackson, Freeport|
|George Bush Intercontinental Airport - Houston|
|Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport|
|Southwest Florida International Airport|
|Tampa International Airport|
|William P. Hobby Airport - Houston|
|Train||Route||Gulf Coast Cities Served|
|City of New Orleans||Chicago to New Orleans||New Orleans|
|Crescent||New York to New Orleans||New Orleans, Picayune, MS, Slidell, LA|
|Sunset Limited||Los Angeles to Orlando (temporarily New Orleans)||Bay St. Louis, MS , Beaumont, TX, Biloxi , Crestview, FL , Gulfport, MS , Houston, Lafayette, LA, Lake Charles, LA, Baton Rouge, LA, Mobile , New Orleans, Panama City, FL , Scriever, LA, Pascagoula, MS , Pensacola|
Hurricane Alicia was a small but powerful tropical cyclone that caused significant destruction in the Greater Houston area of Southeast Texas in August 1983. Although Alicia was a relatively small hurricane, its track over the rapidly growing metropolitan area contributed to its $3 billion damage toll, making it the costliest Atlantic hurricane at the time. Alicia spawned from a disturbance that originated from the tail-end of a cold front over the northern Gulf of Mexico in mid-August 1983. The cyclone was named on August 14 when it became a tropical storm, and the combination of weak steering currents and a conducive environment allowed Alicia to quickly intensify as it drifted slowly westward. On August 17, Alicia became a hurricane and continued to strengthen, topping out as a Category 3 major hurricane as it made landfall on the southwestern end of Galveston Island, Texas. Alicia's eye passed just west of Downtown Houston as the system accelerated northwestwards across East Texas; Alicia eventually weakened into a remnant area of low pressure over Oklahoma on August 20 before they were last noted on August 21 over eastern Nebraska.
The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway is the portion of the Intracoastal Waterway located along the Gulf Coast of the United States. It is a navigable inland waterway running approximately 1,050 mi (1,690 km) from Carrabelle, Florida, to Brownsville, Texas.
Southeast Texas is a sub-region of East Texas. It is geographically centered on the Greater Houston and Beaumont–Port Arthur metropolitan areas.
Galveston Bay is a bay in the western Gulf of Mexico along the upper coast of Texas. It is the seventh-largest estuary in the United States, and the largest of seven major estuaries along the Texas Gulf Coast. It is connected to the Gulf of Mexico and is surrounded by sub-tropical marshes and prairies on the mainland. The water in the bay is a complex mixture of sea water and fresh water, which supports a wide variety of marine life. With a maximum depth of about 10 feet (3 m) and an average depth of only 6 feet (2 m), it is unusually shallow for its size.
Hurricane Ethel was one of two major hurricanes in the 1960 Atlantic hurricane season. The sixth known tropical cyclone, fifth named storm, and fourth hurricane of the season, Ethel developed from a disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico on September 14. After becoming a tropical storm, Ethel rapidly intensified and became a hurricane six hours later. By early on September 15, the storm reached major hurricane intensity when it became a Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale. However, shortly thereafter, Ethel rapidly weakened back to a Category 1 hurricane while brushing eastern Louisiana. Later on September 15, Ethel weakened to a tropical storm. Early on the following day, Ethel made landfall in Pascagoula, Mississippi. The storm gradually weakened inland, before eventually dissipating over southern Kentucky on September 17.
Hurricane Rita was the most intense tropical cyclone on record in the Gulf of Mexico beating Hurricane Katrina and the fourth-most intense Atlantic hurricane ever recorded. Part of the record-breaking 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, which included three of the top ten most intense Atlantic hurricanes ever recorded, Rita was the seventeenth named storm, tenth hurricane, and fifth major hurricane of the 2005 season. Rita formed near The Bahamas from a tropical wave on September 18, 2005 that originally developed off the coast of West Africa. It moved westward, and after passing through the Florida Straits, Rita entered an environment of abnormally warm waters. Moving west-northwest, it rapidly intensified to reach peak winds of 180 mph (285 km/h), achieving Category 5 status on September 21st. However, it weakened to a Category 3 hurricane before making landfall in Johnson's Bayou, Louisiana, between Sabine Pass, Texas and Holly Beach, Louisiana, with winds of 115 mph (185 km/h). Rapidly weakening over land, Rita degenerated into a large low-pressure area over the lower Mississippi Valley by September 26th.
Hurricane Juan was a large and erratic tropical cyclone that looped twice near the Louisiana coast, causing widespread flooding. It was the tenth named storm of the 1985 Atlantic hurricane season, forming in the central Gulf of Mexico in late October. Juan moved northward after its formation, and was subtropical in nature with its large size. On October 27, the storm became a hurricane, reaching maximum sustained winds of 85 mph (140 km/h). Due to the influence of an upper-level low, Juan looped just off southern Louisiana before making landfall near Morgan City on October 29. Weakening to tropical storm status over land, Juan turned back to the southeast over open waters, crossing the Mississippi River Delta. After turning to the northeast, the storm made its final landfall just west of Pensacola, Florida, late on October 31. Juan continued quickly to the north and was absorbed by an approaching cold front, although its moisture contributed to a deadly flood event in the Mid-Atlantic states.
Hurricane Audrey was one of the deadliest tropical cyclones in U.S. history, killing at least 416 people in its devastation of the southwestern Louisiana coast in 1957. Along with Hurricane Alex in 2010, it was also the strongest June hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic basin basin as measured by pressure. The rapidly developing storm struck southwestern Louisiana as an intense Category 3 hurricane, destroying coastal communities with a powerful storm surge that penetrated as far as 20 mi (32 km) inland. Audrey was the first named storm and hurricane of the 1957 hurricane season. It formed on June 24 from a tropical wave that moved into the Bay of Campeche. Situated within ideal conditions for tropical development, Audrey quickly strengthened, reaching hurricane status a day afterwards. Moving north, it continued to strengthen and accelerate as it approached the United States Gulf Coast. On June 27, the hurricane reached peak sustained winds of 125 mph (205 km/h), making it a major hurricane. At the time, Audrey had a minimum barometric pressure of 946 mbar. The hurricane made landfall with the same intensity between the mouth of the Sabine River and Cameron, Louisiana, later that day, causing unprecedented destruction across the region. Once inland, Audrey weakened and turned extratropical over West Virginia on June 29.
Hurricane Fern was the sixth named storm and fourth hurricane of the 1971 Atlantic hurricane season. It formed from a tropical wave which interacted with a large trough of low pressure to form Fern, as well as Hurricane Ginger, Tropical Storm Heidi, and a system later designated as Tropical Depression Sixteen, which moved into South Carolina. Fern crossed southeastern Louisiana as a tropical depression on September 4 before swinging back out over the Gulf of Mexico. Fern reached hurricane status on September 8, reaching a peak intensity of 90 mph (140 km/h) before making landfall near Freeport, Texas, two days later.
The 1987 Gulf Coast tropical storm caused flooding along the Gulf Coast of the United States. The second tropical cyclone and first tropical storm of the 1987 Atlantic hurricane season, it originated from a tropical wave in the Gulf of Mexico, southeast of Texas, on August 9. Initially a tropical depression, the cyclone moved north-northwestward and slightly intensified into a tropical storm later that day. By August 10, it made landfall between Galveston and Beaumont. The system weakened after moving inland and turned towards the east and later southeast. Briefly reemerging over the Gulf on August 15, the depression moved onshore a second time in Florida, before dissipating over eastern Georgia on August 17.
Tropical Storm Felice was a modest tropical cyclone that lightly affected parts of the Gulf Coast of the United States in mid-September 1970. Spawned by an upper-level trough over the Bahamas, the system crossed the Florida Keys and entered the Gulf of Mexico, where it gradually began to strengthen. Felice was a disorganized storm for its entire duration, plagued by dry air, a lack of deep thunderstorm activity, and an ill-defined center of circulation, but nevertheless managed to peak as a high-end tropical storm with winds just below Category 1 hurricane strength. Tracking northwestward, the storm brushed southern Louisiana on September 15 before making landfall northeast of Galveston, Texas, late that same day. Once ashore, Felice quickly deteriorated as it recurved into the central United States. While over southeastern Oklahoma, however, its remnants still closely resembled a formidable tropical cyclone.
Tropical Storm Edouard brought coastal and minor inland flooding to Louisiana and Texas in August 2008. The fifth tropical cyclone and fifth named storm of the hurricane season, Edouard developed from a trough in the northern Gulf of Mexico on August 3. After developing into a tropical depression, it gradually strengthened and was upgraded to Tropical Storm Edouard on August 4. However, northerly wind shear initially halted any further significant intensification and also caused the storm to struggle to maintain deep convection over the center. Edouard eventually intensified further and peaked as a strong tropical storm with winds of 65 mph (100 km/h) on August 5. Shortly thereafter, the storm made landfall near Gilchrist, Texas later that day. Edouard quickly weakened and was downgraded to tropical depression by early on August 6, six hours before degenerated into a remnant low pressure area.
Hurricane Ike was a powerful tropical cyclone that swept through portions of the Greater Antilles and Northern America in September 2008, wreaking havoc on infrastructure and agriculture, particularly in Cuba and Texas. Ike took a similar track to the 1900 Galveston hurricane. The ninth tropical storm, fifth hurricane, and third major hurricane of the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season, Ike developed from a tropical wave west of Cape Verde on September 1 and strengthened to a peak intensity as a Category 4 hurricane over the open waters of the central Atlantic on September 4 as it tracked westward. Several fluctuations in strength occurred before Ike made landfall on eastern Cuba on September 8. The hurricane weakened prior to continuing into the Gulf of Mexico, but increased its intensity by the time of its final landfall in Galveston, Texas on September 13 before becoming an extratropical storm on September 14. The remnants of Ike continued to track across the United States and into Canada, causing considerable damage inland, before dissipating on the next day.
Tropical Storm Arlene was a short lived, pre-season tropical storm which made landfall on the central Louisiana coastline on May 30, 1959, causing minor damages and one fatality. Arlene developed out of a tropical wave which was first noted near the Dominican Republic on May 23. Development of the system was slow before it gained enough convection to be declared Tropical Storm Arlene on May 28. The storm slowly intensified and reached its peak intensity of 60 mph (95 km/h) on May 30. Rapid weakening took place as the storm neared land and Arlene made landfall with winds of 45 mph (75 km/h) later that night. Arlene weakened to what is now classified as a Tropical Depression early the next morning. The system degenerated into a remnant low on the afternoon of May 31 and fully dissipated late on June 2 while located over South Carolina.
The Ike Dike is a proposed coastal barrier that, when completed, would protect the Galveston Bay in Texas, United States. The project would be a dramatic enhancement of the existing Galveston Seawall, complete with floodgates, which would protect more of Galveston, the Bolivar Peninsula, the Galveston Bay Area, and Houston. The barrier would extend across Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula and would provide a barrier against all Gulf surges into the bay. The project is primarily the suggestion of Dr. Bill Merrell of Texas A&M University at Galveston. The Ike Dike would be able to withstand ~10,000 year storms.
United States Coast Guard Air Station Houston is a United States Coast Guard Air Station located 15 miles (24 km) southeast of downtown Houston, Texas on board the Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base (JRB).
Hurricane Debra was a destructive tropical cyclone that developed during the 1959 Atlantic hurricane season. The fifth tropical storm and third hurricane of the season, Debra originated from the interaction of a cold-core low and a tropical wave on July 15. The system was designated a tropical depression on July 23 when it was south of Louisiana and meandered westward while it swiftly intensified into a tropical storm along the Gulf Coast of the United States. A turn towards the northwest became evident as it attained Category 1 hurricane status on the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale the following day while it organized into a developed storm. As the hurricane curved northward at a slow forward speed, strength was maintained as it approached the coast of Texas as a minimal hurricane. It came ashore during the evening of July 24 local time between Freeport and Galveston, Texas. It rapidly weakened into a tropical storm and later a depression as it moved inland, and dissipated on July 28 while it turned northwestward. The remnant moisture later sparked upper-level thunderstorms in late July and early August.
The 1920 Louisiana hurricane was a strong tropical cyclone that caused significant damage in parts of Louisiana in September 1920. The second tropical storm and hurricane of the annual hurricane season, it formed from an area of disturbed weather on September 16, 1920, northwest of Colombia. The system remained a weak tropical depression as it made landfall on Nicaragua, but later intensified to tropical storm strength as it moved across the Gulf of Honduras, prior to making a second landfall on the Yucatán Peninsula. Once in the Gulf of Mexico, the storm quickly intensified as it moved towards the north-northwest, reaching its peak intensity as a Category 2 hurricane with winds of 100 mph (160 km/h) prior to making landfall near Houma, Louisiana with no change in intensity. Afterwards, it quickly weakened over land, before dissipating on September 23 over eastern Kansas.
Racer's hurricane was a destructive tropical cyclone that had severe effects in northeastern Mexico, the Republic of Texas, and the Gulf Coast of the United States in early October 1837. It takes its name from the Royal Navy ship HMS Racer, which encountered the cyclone in the northwestern Caribbean Sea. Termed "one of the most famous and destructive hurricanes of the century" by meteorology historian David Ludlum, the storm first affected Jamaica with flooding rainfall and strong winds on September 26 and 27, before entering the Gulf of Mexico by October 1. As the hurricane struck northern Tamaulipas and southern Texas, it slowed to a crawl and turned sharply northeastward. The storm battered the Gulf Coast from Texas to the Florida Panhandle between October 3 and 7. After crossing the Southeastern United States, it emerged into the Atlantic shipping lanes off the Carolinas by October 9.