Hurricane Carla

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Hurricane Carla
Category 5 major hurricane (SSHWS/NWS)
Hurricane Carla Satellite.JPG
Satellite image of Hurricane Carla on September 10.
FormedSeptember 3, 1961
DissipatedSeptember 17, 1961
( Extratropical after September 13)
Highest winds 1-minute sustained:175 mph (280 km/h)
Lowest pressure931 mbar (hPa); 27.49 inHg
Fatalities43 direct
Damage$325.74 million (1961 USD)
Areas affected Yucatán Peninsula, Texas, parts of the Central United States, Great Lakes region, Canada
Part of the 1961 Atlantic hurricane season

Hurricane Carla ranks as the most intense U.S. tropical cyclone landfall on the Hurricane Severity Index. [1] The third named storm and first Category 5 hurricane of the 1961 Atlantic hurricane season, Carla developed from an area of squally weather in the southwestern Caribbean Sea on September 3. Initially a tropical depression, it strengthened slowly while heading northwestward, and by September 5, the system was upgraded to Tropical Storm Carla. About 24 hours later, Carla was upgraded to a hurricane. Shortly thereafter, the storm curved northward while approaching the Yucatán Channel. Late on September 7, Carla entered the Gulf of Mexico while passing just northeast of the Yucatán Peninsula. By early on the following day, the storm became a major hurricane after reaching Category 3 intensity. Resuming its northwestward course, Carla continued intensification and on September 11, it was upgraded to a Category 5 hurricane. Later that day, Carla weakened slightly, but was still a large and intense hurricane when the storm made landfall near Port O'Connor, Texas. It weakened quickly inland and was reduced to a tropical storm on September 12. Heading generally northward, Carla transitioned into an extratropical cyclone on September 13, while centered over southern Oklahoma. Rapidly moving northeastward, Carla's remnants reached the Labrador Sea, Canada and dissipated on September 17, 1961.

Tropical cyclone Is a rotating storm system

A tropical cyclone is a rapidly rotating storm system characterized by a low-pressure center, a closed low-level atmospheric circulation, strong winds, and a spiral arrangement of thunderstorms that produce heavy rain. Depending on its location and strength, a tropical cyclone is referred to by different names, including hurricane, typhoon, tropical storm, cyclonic storm, tropical depression, and simply cyclone. A hurricane is a tropical cyclone that occurs in the Atlantic Ocean and northeastern Pacific Ocean, and a typhoon occurs in the northwestern Pacific Ocean; in the south Pacific or Indian Ocean, comparable storms are referred to simply as "tropical cyclones" or "severe cyclonic storms".

The Hurricane Severity Index is a hurricane rating system which defines the strength and destructive capability of a storm. The HSI uses equations which incorporate the intensity of the winds and the size of the area covered by the winds. The HSI attempts to demonstrate that two hurricanes of similar intensity may have different destructive capability due to variances in size, and furthermore that a less intense, but very large hurricane, may in fact be more destructive than a smaller, more intense hurricane. HSI was developed by a private company program in competition with the National Weather Service's Accumulated cyclone energy index.

1961 Atlantic hurricane season hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean

The 1961 Atlantic hurricane season featured the highest number of major hurricanes – Category 3 or higher on the modern-day Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale – until being tied by 2005. The season officially began on June 15, and lasted until November 15. These dates conventionally delimit the period of each year when most tropical cyclones form in the Atlantic basin. It was an above average season in terms of tropical storms, with a total of 11 named storms. The first system, Hurricane Anna, developed in the eastern Caribbean Sea near the Windward Islands on July 20. It brought minor damage to the islands, as well as wind and flood impacts to Central America after striking Belize as a hurricane. Anna caused one death and about $300,000 (1961 USD) in damage. Activity went dormant for nearly a month and a half, until Hurricane Betsy developed on September 2. Betsy peaked as a Category 4 hurricane, but remained at sea and caused no impact.


While crossing the Yucatán Channel, the outer bands of Carla brought gusty winds and severe local flooding in western Cuba and the Yucatán Peninsula, though no damage or fatalities were reported. Although initially considered a significant threat to Florida, the storm brought only light winds and small amounts of precipitation, reaching no more than 3.15 in (80 mm). In Texas, wind gusts as high as 170 mph (280 km/h) were observed in Port Lavaca. Additionally, several tornadoes spawned in the state caused notable impacts, with the most destructive twister, an F4 near Galveston, Texas, resulting in 200 buildings severely damaged, of which at least 60 were destroyed, and 8 deaths and 55 injuries. The aforementioned tornado remains the strongest hurricane-spawned tornado ever recorded, with wind speeds in the tornado nearly 50% greater than Carla's peak intensity. Throughout the state, Carla destroyed 1,915 homes, 568 farm buildings, and 415 other buildings. Additionally, 50,723 homes, 5,620 farm buildings, and 10,487 other buildings suffered damage. There were 34 fatalities and at least $300 million (1961  USD) in losses in Texas alone. Several tornadoes also touched down in Louisiana, causing the destruction of 140 homes and 11 farms and other buildings, and major damage to 231 additional homes and 11 farm and other buildings. Minor to moderate damage was also reported to 748 homes and 75 farm and other buildings. Six deaths and $25 million in losses in Louisiana were attributed to Carla. Heavy rainfall occurred in several other states, especially in Kansas, where flash flooding severely damaged crops and drowned 5 people. Overall, Carla resulted in $325.74 million in losses and 43 fatalities.


A rainband is a cloud and precipitation structure associated with an area of rainfall which is significantly elongated. Rainbands can be stratiform or convective, and are generated by differences in temperature. When noted on weather radar imagery, this precipitation elongation is referred to as banded structure. Rainbands within tropical cyclones are curved in orientation. Tropical cyclone rainbands contain showers and thunderstorms that, together with the eyewall and the eye, constitute a hurricane or tropical storm. The extent of rainbands around a tropical cyclone can help determine the cyclone's intensity.

Cuba Country in the Caribbean

Cuba, officially the Republic of Cuba, is a country comprising the island of Cuba as well as Isla de la Juventud and several minor archipelagos. Cuba is located in the northern Caribbean where the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean meet. It is east of the Yucatán Peninsula (Mexico), south of both the U.S. state of Florida and the Bahamas, west of Haiti and north of both Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. Havana is the largest city and capital; other major cities include Santiago de Cuba and Camagüey. The area of the Republic of Cuba is 110,860 square kilometres (42,800 sq mi). The island of Cuba is the largest island in Cuba and in the Caribbean, with an area of 105,006 square kilometres (40,543 sq mi), and the second-most populous after Hispaniola, with over 11 million inhabitants.

Florida State of the United States of America

Florida is the southernmost contiguous state in the United States. The state is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the northwest by Alabama, to the north by Georgia, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, and to the south by the Straits of Florida. Florida is the 22nd-most extensive, the 3rd-most populous, and the 8th-most densely populated of the U.S. states. Jacksonville is the most populous municipality in the state and the largest city by area in the contiguous United States. The Miami metropolitan area is Florida's most populous urban area. Tallahassee is the state's capital.

Meteorological history

Map plotting the track and the intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir-Simpson scale Carla 1961 track.png
Map plotting the track and the intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir–Simpson scale

As early as September 1, a tropical disturbance an area of convective activity was observed tracking westward across the Caribbean Sea within the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). Around that time, an anticyclone was situated over the western Caribbean Sea at the upper-tropospheric levels. Surface charts indicate that a low-level circulation was developing early on September 3. [2] Thus, it is estimated that a tropical depression a tropical cyclone with sustained winds with winds of less than 39  mph (63  km/h ) developed about 175 miles (282 km) northwest of Barranquilla, Colombia at 1200 UTC. [3] Initially, the center of circulation remained difficult to locate on surface charts due to lack of data. At San Andrés, winds shifted west at about 12 mph (19 km/h), while barometric pressures dropped to 1,007  mbar (29.7  inHg ). The Weather Bureau Office in Miami, Florida issued its first bulletin at 1600 UTC on September 4, while the depression was centered about 250 miles (400 km) east-southeast of Cabo Gracias a Dios, Nicaragua. [2]

Atmospheric convection

Atmospheric convection is the result of a parcel-environment instability, or temperature difference layer in the atmosphere. Different lapse rates within dry and moist air masses lead to instability. Mixing of air during the day which expands the height of the planetary boundary layer leads to increased winds, cumulus cloud development, and decreased surface dew points. Moist convection leads to thunderstorm development, which is often responsible for severe weather throughout the world. Special threats from thunderstorms include hail, downbursts, and tornadoes.

Caribbean Sea A sea of the Atlantic Ocean bounded by North, Central, and South America

The Caribbean Sea is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean in the tropics of the Western Hemisphere. It is bounded by Mexico and Central America to the west and south west, to the north by the Greater Antilles starting with Cuba, to the east by the Lesser Antilles, and to the south by the north coast of South America.

Intertropical Convergence Zone

The Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), known by sailors as the doldrums or the calms, is the area encircling Earth near the Equator, where the northeast and southeast trade winds converge.

It is estimated that sustained winds reached 45 mph (75 km/h) at 1200 UTC on September 5, [4] thus the depression strengthened into a tropical storm and was named Carla, while located just northeast of Cabo Gracias a Dios. [3] A reconnaissance aircraft flight reported that Carla was continuing to intensify, with surface winds of 50 mph (85 km/h). Radars reported an unusually large tropical cyclone, with convective bands extending about 520 miles (840 km) outward from the center. Around 0000 UTC on September 6, Carla passed near Swan Island, which reported a barometric pressure of about 995 mbar (29.4 inHg) and wind gusts of 60 mph (95 km/h) from the southwest. [4] Based on observations obtained by a reconnaissance aircraft at 1100 UTC on September 6 namely a barometric pressure of 982 mbar (29.0 inHg) a bulletin issued by the Weather Bureau an hour later indicated that the storm had "probably reached hurricane intensity". [5] According to post-season analysis, Carla reached hurricane status at that time. [3]

Swan Islands, Honduras island group of Honduras

The Swan Islands, or Islas Santanilla or Islas del Cisne, initially named Islas de las Pozas by Christopher Columbus in 1502, is a chain of three islands located in the northwestern Caribbean Sea, approximately 153 kilometres (95 mi) off the coastline of Honduras, with a land area of 3.1 square kilometres.

Radar image of Carla from WSR-57 in Galveston, Texas Hurricane carla radar.jpg
Radar image of Carla from WSR-57 in Galveston, Texas

Shortly after becoming a hurricane on September 6, Carla curved northward in the northwestern Caribbean Sea. At 1200 UTC on September 7, the storm intensified into a Category 2 hurricane while located east-northeast of Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico (actual use of the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which was developed in 1971, was not in effect). Shortly thereafter, Carla crossed the Yucatán Channel and entered the Gulf of Mexico. A strong high pressure area forced Carla to resume its original northwesterly course. Early on September 8, the storm strengthened into a Category 3 hurricane while located just north of the Yucatán Peninsula. Thus, Carla was the third major hurricane of the season. Carla was upgraded to a Category 4 hurricane early on September 10, while approaching the Gulf Coast of the United States. At 0000 UTC on September 11, Carla strengthened into a Category 5 hurricane while located in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Six hours later, the storm reached its maximum sustained wind speed of 175 mph (280 km/h). [3] A 2018 reanalysis concluded that Carla did not reach Category 5 intensity, and in fact only had maximum sustained winds of 145 mph (230 km/h), but this has not yet been officially incorporated into HURDAT. [6]

Cozumel island in Quintana Roo, Mexico

Cozumel is an island and municipality in the Caribbean Sea off the eastern coast of Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula, opposite Playa del Carmen, and close to the Yucatán Channel. The municipality is part of the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Quintana Roo State of Mexico

Quintana Roo, officially the Free and Sovereign State of Quintana Roo, is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, make up the 32 federal entities of Mexico. It is divided into 11 municipalities and its capital city is Chetumal.

Mexico country in the southern portion of North America

Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2,000,000 square kilometres (770,000 sq mi), the nation is the fifth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world. With an estimated population of over 120 million people, the country is the eleventh most populous state and the most populous Spanish-speaking state in the world, while being the second most populous nation in Latin America after Brazil. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states and Mexico City, a special federal entity that is also the capital city and its most populous city. Other metropolises in the state include Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana and León.

Although it weakened back to a Category 4 hurricane late on September 11, Carla reached its minimum barometric pressure of 931 mbar (27.5 inHg). Later that day, the storm struck Matagorda Island, Texas (seven miles south of Port O'Connor) with winds of 145 mph (230 km/h). Carla rapidly weakened inland, and degenerated to a Category 2 hurricane on September 12, while passing just east of Port Lavaca. Six hours later, the storm was downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane near Shiner, shortly before being downgraded to a tropical storm between Taylor and Coupland. Beginning late on September 12, the storm curved just east of due north. After reaching Oklahoma early on September 13, Carla transitioned into an extratropical cyclone while located over rural Johnston County. The extratropical remnants of Carla moved rapidly northeastward and brought heavy rainfall to some areas of the Great Plains and Midwestern United States. By September 14, it entered Canada near Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. It then continued swiftly northeastward across Ontario, Quebec, and Labrador, before the remnants dissipated over the Labrador Sea on September 17. [3]

Matagorda Island landform

Matagorda Island, Spanish for "thick brush," is a 38-mile (61 km) long barrier island on the Texas Gulf coast, located approximately seven miles south of Port O'Connor, in the southernmost part of Calhoun County. Traditional homeland of the Karankawa Indians. The island is oriented generally northeast-southwest, with the Gulf of Mexico on the east and south, and Espiritu Santo Bay on the west and north. It is separated from San José Island to the south by Cedar Bayou, and is separated from the Matagorda Peninsula to the north by Pass Cavallo. It has one permanent resident, Clint Bennetsen, and is accessible by boat only. It has a land area of 157.25 square kilometres.

Texas State of the United States of America

Texas is the second largest state in the United States by both area and population. Geographically located in the South Central region of the country, Texas shares borders with the U.S. states of Louisiana to the east, Arkansas to the northeast, Oklahoma to the north, New Mexico to the west, and the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas to the southwest, while the Gulf of Mexico is to the southeast.

Port OConnor, Texas Census-designated place in Texas, United States

Port O'Connor is an unincorporated community and census-designated place (CDP) in Calhoun County, Texas, United States, near the Gulf coastline between Galveston and Corpus Christi. The CDP had a population of 1,253 at the 2010 census. It is part of the Victoria, Texas Metropolitan Statistical Area.


Occurring a year after Hurricane Donna, officials in the Florida Keys took precautions to brace for potential impact from the storm. The United States Navy flew their planes out of Key West, while Coast Guardsmen evacuated Alligator Reef Light, American Shoal Light, and Sombrero Key Light. Ships docked at Key West sailed out to sea to ride out the squalls. On the morning of September 7, a hurricane watch was issued from the entire coast of Louisiana eastward to Apalachicola, Florida. [7] On September 8, a hurricane watch was issued along the southwest coast of the state from Vermilion Bay westward. [8] It was later extended westward to include the entire coast of Texas, and eastward to Apalachicola, Florida. [9] A portion of the hurricane watch from Aransas Pass, Texas to Grand Isle, Louisiana was upgraded to a hurricane warning at 1600 UTC on September 9. [10] An estimated 500,000 people fled the coasts of Texas and Louisiana, making it the largest evacuation in the history of the United States, at the time. [11] Further, at least half of those people were from Texas. In small towns along the coast of Texas, 90100% of their populations evacuated, while 20% of people left the larger cities. Many in Galveston stayed due to protection from the Galveston Seawall. [12]


Carla spawned the largest hurricane-related tornado outbreak on record at the time, when 26 tornadoes touched down within its circulation. However, it was overwhelmingly surpassed by Hurricane Beulah in 1967, which spawned at least 115 tornadoes. [13] Throughout its path, 43 fatalities and about $325.74 million in damage were attributed to Carla. Most of the impact occurred in Texas, where the storm made landfall as a large and strong Category 4 hurricane. [14] [15] [16]

United States

Most severe landfalling Atlantic hurricanes in the United States
Based on size and intensity for total points on the Hurricane Severity Index [17]
1 Carla 1961 172542
2 Betsy 1965 152540
Hugo 1989 162440
4 Wilma 2005 122537
5 Camille 1969 221436
Opal 1995 112536
Katrina 2005 132336
8 Miami 1926 151934
9 Audrey 1957 171633
Fran 1996 112233


A house destroyed by Hurricane Carla in Port O'Connor, Texas Carlaportoconnor.jpg
A house destroyed by Hurricane Carla in Port O'Connor, Texas

Abnormally high tides and storm surge was reported along the coast of Texas, reaching at least 10 feet (3.0 m) above mean sea level at many coastal areas between Sabine Pass and Port Aransas. The highest tide reported was 18.5 feet (5.6 m) at Port Lavaca, with large wave heights including 12.6 feet (3.8 m) in Matagorda, 10.9 feet (3.3 m) in Port Aransas, 10.8 feet (3.3 m) in Freeport, 10.1 feet (3.1 m) in Texas City, and 10 feet (3.0 m) in Galveston and Sabine. Because the storm was a Category 4 hurricane at landfall, Carla produced strong winds, especially near its path. The strongest sustained winds include 115 mph (185 km/h) in Matagorda, 110 mph (180 km/h) in Victoria, and 88 mph (142 km/h). Additionally, the highest wind gust observations include 175 mph (282 km/h) in Port Lavaca, 160 mph (260 km/h) in Matagorda, and 150 mph (240 km/h) in Aransas Pass, Austwell, Edna, Port Aransas, and Victoria. Carla produced heavy rainfall in Texas, peaking at 17.48 inches (444 mm) in Bay City. Other significant precipitation totals include 16.49 inches (419 mm) at Scholes International Airport at Galveston, 14.94 inches (379 mm) in Downtown Galveston, 13.05 inches (331 mm) in Wharton, 12.55 inches (319 mm) in Liberty, 12.47 inches (317 mm) in Dickinson, 11.81 inches (300 mm) in Flatonia, 10.59 inches (269 mm) in Columbus, 8.75 inches (222 mm) in Hallettsville, and 8.9 inches (230 mm) in Smithville. [12]

Tidal flooding caused by Hurricane Carla Carlaflooding.jpg
Tidal flooding caused by Hurricane Carla

The most significant damage to property occurred between Port Arthur and Corpus Christi. Port O'Connor, lying nearest to the location of Carla's landfall, was virtually destroyed. In Victoria, the highest sustained wind speed was 110 mph (180 km/h), while gusts reached 150 mph (240 km/h). About 4,260 homes were damaged, with around 500 severely damaged or destroyed. 43 businesses and 26 public buildings were also significantly impacted. Damage in the city of Victoria reached $10 million. [18] Of the 26 tornadoes spawned by Carla, [13] eight of them in Texas caused significant impact. A tornado near Bay City destroyed two radio towers and damaged several buildings. Near Jacksonville, a tornado injured three people, caused the destruction of one house and impacted 3 others, resulting in $25,000 in damage. Twenty-two people were injured, 18 homes and 6 commercial buildings were destroyed, and 40 additional homes were damaged in a tornado in Channelview, located near Houston; losses reached $200,000. In the early morning hours of September 13, an F4 tornado moved across Galveston Island along a 15-mile (24-kilometer) long, 230-yard-wide path (it crossed into Galveston Bay as well), severely damaging 200 buildings, of which at least 60 were destroyed, and causing eight deaths and 55 injuries. A few hours later, another twister in the area resulted in the destruction of six houses and extensive lesser damage. In Hardin, a tornado damaged six homes. Several structures sustained impact during a tornado in Fulbright. The final twister occurred during the late afternoon hours in Latex. It caused two injuries, and resulted in $5,000 in losses, after damaging two houses and three garages. [14]

Sign showing the highest water level of Hurricane Carla in Galveston Galvestonstormmarkers.jpg
Sign showing the highest water level of Hurricane Carla in Galveston

Then little-known newsman Dan Rather reported live from the second floor of a building in Texas City during the storm, an act that would be imitated by later reporters. This marked the first live television broadcast of a hurricane. Rather also alerted the public of the size of Carla in a way that "literally changed the way the world sees hurricanes", according to a fellow reporter. Broadcasting live at the Weather Bureau Office in Galveston, Rather asked a meteorologist to draw an outline of the Gulf of Mexico on a transparent sheet of plastic. He then held the map over the black and white radar screen, which put the size of Carla into perspective, saying that Carla was the size of the Gulf of Mexico. CBS was so impressed with Rather's work that he was offered the position of correspondent. [19] Throughout Texas, Carla destroyed 1,915 homes, 568 farm buildings, and 415 other buildings. Additionally, 50,723 homes, 5,620 farm buildings, and 10,487 other buildings suffered damage. There were 460 injuries according to the American Red Cross, though the Monthly Weather Review listed a slightly higher number, 465. The storm caused 34 fatalities in Texas. Causes of death include 20 people drowning, eight from tornadoes, four electrocutions, and one heart attack. [20] Overall, damage in the state was "conservatively" estimated at $300 million. [14] A breakdown of damage indicates $200 million incurred to property and $100 million to crops, mostly from unharvested rice and lesser impact to cotton and citrus. [14]


In southeastern Louisiana, abnormally high tides lashed the coast, though no beach erosion was reported. Rainfall was heavy, peaking at 13.9 inches (350 mm) in Many. Other observed precipitation totals include 5.6 inches (140 mm) in Baton Rouge, 5.57 inches (141 mm) in Morgan City, 4.25 inches (108 mm) in Shreveport, 3.16 inches (80 mm) in New Orleans, 2.25 inches (57 mm) in Lafayette, 2.19 inches (56 mm) in Alexandria, 2.1 inches (53 mm) in Jonesville and West Monroe, and 1.37 inches (35 mm) in Lake Charles. [21] In the western portions of Louisiana, sustained winds peaked at 44 mph (71 km/h) and gusts reached 55 mph (89 km/h). Only minor damage occurred, limited to roofs, glass, and downed tree limbs. Winds caused a local river to reach 1 foot (0.30 m) above flood stage. [22] The 11 tornadoes spawned by Carla in Louisiana destroyed 140 homes and 11 farm and other buildings, while causing major damage to 231 additional homes and 11 farm and other buildings. Additionally, 748 homes and 75 farm and other buildings suffered minor to moderate damage. Six fatalities and 199 injuries occurred, mostly related to the tornadoes. [15] Damage in Louisiana totaled to about $25 million. A breakdown of losses include $6 million to agriculture, $5 million to buildings, $4 million to boats and beach property, $3 million to roads and bridges, $5 million to oil platforms just offshore, and $2 million in miscellaneous damage. [16]


Rainfall from Carla in the United States Carla 1961 rainfall.png
Rainfall from Carla in the United States

Carla and its remnants brought heavy rainfall and strong winds to portions of Oklahoma. About 2–8 inches (51–203 mm) of rain fell in Grant, Tillman, Washita Counties. Heavier amounts of at least 5 inches (130 mm) fell in Atoka and Pushmataha County. [15] Precipitation in the state peaked at 7.68 inches (195 mm) in Kingfisher. [23] More than 140 city blocks were flooded with up to 6 feet (1.8 m) in residential areas of Kingfisher and up to 3 feet (0.91 m) in business areas. 225 homes and buildings in the city suffered water damaged. Throughout the state, damage in other areas included 90 homes and buildings in Tulsa, 50 homes each in El Reno and Oklahoma City, and 10 homes in Pawnee. Additionally, water inundation washed out several bridges and highways in northeastern parts of the state, leaving roads impassable. Sustained winds between 30 and 55 mph (48 and 89 km/h) and gusts up to 70 mph (110 km/h) were recorded in Oklahoma. Winds injured two people due to airborne debris. Winds and rain combined severely disrupted electrical and telephone services and caused $670,000 in damage, with $600,000 to property and $70,000 to crops. [15]


The storm dropped precipitation amounts of 7 inches (180 mm) throughout northwestern Illinois, with a peak of 8.18 inches (208 mm) in Mount Carroll. Thus, Carla is the second-wettest tropical cyclone in Illinois, behind only Hurricane Audrey in 1957. [23] Additionally, up to 6.29 inches (160 mm) fell in 24 hours. Severe local flooding occurred, especially in the northern portions of the state. Heavy property and agricultural damage occurred. Streets and basements were reported to have flooded, while bridge approaches and a few small bridges were washed out. Precipitation of 2.5–3.5 inches (64–89 mm) in Chicago flooded about 60 viaducts and 1,000 basements. After the Chicago River rose 5 feet (1.5 m), the lock gate to Lake Michigan was opened to release excess water. However, the abrupt onrush of water resulted in about $75,000 in damage to boats at Wilmette Harbor. [14] [16]

Elsewhere in the United States

Winds in Key West reached 30 mph (48 km/h), while much of Florida reported rainfall from the outer bands of Carla. [24] In Kansas, 4 to 7 inches (100 to 180 mm) of rain in only 6 hours caused flash flooding. With a peak amount of 8.52 inches (216 mm) in Haddam, Carla was the rainiest tropical cyclone in Kansas, until being surpassed by Hurricane Paine in 1986 and Tropical Storm Frances in 1998. [23] Severe crop damage occurred, especially in areas of Chautauqua and Shawnee Counties and to the south of the Kansas River. Many highways were left impassable due to water inundation. A family of 4 drowned after their car was swept off a road near Waverly. A fifth fatality occurred after a car with one occupant was swept into a tributary of the Marmaton River near Fort Scott. The storm persistently produced winds of 35 to 50 mph (56 to 80 km/h), causing further agricultural damage. [14]

In Nebraska, rainfall peaked at 5.68 inches (144 mm) in Hubbrell, making Carla the rainiest tropical cyclone in the state. [23] Heavy precipitation also fell in Missouri, especially in Brookfield, Lee's Summit, and Pleasant Hill. The maximum rainfall total in Missouri was 9.34 inches (237 mm) in Concordia. [23] One fatality was reported in Missouri, though the cause of death is unknown. Rainfall in Iowa peaked at 9.03 inches (229 mm) near Chariton, making Carla the rainiest tropical cyclone in the state. [23] Up to 8 inches (200 mm) of rain fell in a 12-hour period in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, mostly between Cheboygan and Grand Rapids. [14] However, the Weather Prediction Center indicated precipitation amounts of 6.07 inches (154 mm) in Boyne Falls. Regardless, Carla is the wettest tropical cyclone in the history of Michigan. [23] Despite, the rainfall, flooding in Michigan was relatively minimal, limited to an washed out dam in Traverse City. [14] Precipitation in Wisconsin reached 7.58 inches (193 mm) in Brodhead, causing Carla to rank as the wettest tropical cyclone in the state. [23] Precipitation peaks in other states include 4.44 inches (113 mm) in Alabama, 5.48 inches (139 mm) in Arkansas, 6.37 inches (162 mm) in Mississippi, [25] and 3.6 inches (91 mm) in Indiana. [23]


In Cuba, broadcasts reported severe flooding near Pinar del Río, and in Los Colomas and Punta de Cartas. Offshore Honduras on Swan Island, a rainfall amount of 3.89 inches (99 mm) was reported along with wind gusts up to 60 mph (95 km/h). The remnants of Carla brought tropical storm force winds to some areas of Canada. In Ontario, gusty winds caused power outages in the Clarkson Port Credit area. Electrical services were are disrupted in New Brunswick, due to winds up to 80 mph (130 km/h) in Saint John. Winds of 57 mph (92 km/h) lashed Halifax in Nova Scotia, thus the Halifax Public Gardens closed for threat of falling trees and branches. [26]


Shortly after the storm, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, a lifelong resident of Texas, toured the devastation in the state and met with officials from 18  different counties, remarking that "as always, Texans are arising to a challenge... We have suffered hurricane, tornado, and floods, but we in Texas are a bold and brave people." [27] After his report to President John F. Kennedy and Congress, $55 million was approved in aid for Texas, though Kennedy later requested an additional $65 million. [28] President Kennedy issued a disaster declaration for Texas, allowing all jurisdictions in the state to apply for public assistance. [29] The president also declared 6 parishes in Louisiana a disaster area. [28] Helicopters deployed 88  United States Marines to Galveston to patrol devastated areas. A United States Navy task force composed of medical and construction work teams was also sent to the area. Members of the United States National Guard assisted refugees in returning to their homes and worked to prevent looting. [30] Owing the hurricane's intensity and destruction, the name Carla was retired and will never again be used for an Atlantic hurricane. It was replaced by Carol in the 1965 season. [31]

See also

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Hurricane Alicia Category 3 Atlantic hurricane in 1983

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.

Tropical Storm Allison Atlantic tropical storm in 2001

Tropical Storm Allison was a tropical storm that devastated southeast Texas in June of the 2001 Atlantic hurricane season. An arguable example of the "brown ocean effect", Allison lasted unusually long for a June storm, remaining tropical or subtropical for 15 days, most of which when the storm was over land dumping torrential rainfall. The storm developed from a tropical wave in the northern Gulf of Mexico on June 4, 2001, and struck the upper Texas coast shortly thereafter. It drifted northward through the state, turned back to the south, and re-entered the Gulf of Mexico. The storm continued to the east-northeast, made landfall on Louisiana, then moved across the southeast United States and Mid-Atlantic. Allison was the first storm since Tropical Storm Frances in 1998 to strike the northern Texas coastline.

1943 Surprise Hurricane Category 1 Atlantic hurricane in 1943

The 1943 Surprise hurricane was the first hurricane to be entered by a reconnaissance aircraft. The first tracked tropical cyclone of the 1943 Atlantic hurricane season, this system developed as a tropical storm while situated over the northeastern Gulf of Mexico on July 25. The storm gradually strengthened while tracking westward and reached hurricane status late on July 26. Thereafter, the hurricane curved slightly west-northwestward and continued intensifying. Early on July 27, it became a Category 2 hurricane on the modern-day Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale and peaked with winds of 105 mph (165 km/h). The system maintained this intensity until landfall on the Bolivar Peninsula in Texas late on July 27. After moving inland, the storm initially weakened rapidly, but remained a tropical cyclone until dissipating over north-central Texas on July 29.

1958 Atlantic hurricane season hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean

The 1958 Atlantic hurricane season included every tropical cyclone either affecting or threatening land. There were ten named storms as well as one pre-season tropical depression. Seven of the storms became hurricanes, including five that were major hurricanes, or the equivalent of a Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson scale. The strongest storm was Hurricane Helene, which became a strong Category 4 hurricane with 150 mph (240 km/h) winds and a barometric pressure of 930 mbar while just offshore the southeastern United States.

1959 Atlantic hurricane season hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean

The 1959 Atlantic hurricane season had a then record-tying number of tropical cyclones – five – develop before August 1. The season was officially to begin on June 15, 1959 and last until November 15, 1959, the period of each year when most tropical cyclones form in the Atlantic basin, however in actuality the season began early when Tropical Storm Arlene formed on May 28. Tropical Storm Arlene struck Louisiana and brought minor flooding to the Gulf Coast of the United States. The next storm, Beulah, formed in the western Gulf of Mexico and brought negligible impact to Mexico and Texas. Later in June, an unnamed hurricane, nicknamed the Escuminac disaster, caused minor damage in Florida and devastated coastal Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, after becoming extratropical. Hurricane Cindy brought minor impact to The Carolinas. In late July, Hurricane Debra produced flooding in the state of Texas. Tropical Storm Edith in August and Hurricane Flora in September caused negligible impact on land.

Hurricane Hilda Category 4 Atlantic hurricane in 1964

Hurricane Hilda was the most intense tropical cyclone of the 1964 Atlantic hurricane season and ravaged areas of the United States Gulf Coast, particularly Louisiana. In addition to causing impacts inland, the hurricane greatly disrupted offshore oil production, and at its time was the costliest tropical cyclone for Louisiana's offshore oil production. Due in part to flights made by the National Hurricane Research Laboratory, Hilda became one of the most well-documented storms meteorologically in the Atlantic. Lasting for seven days as a tropical cyclone, Hilda caused US$126 million in damage and 38 deaths.

1920 Atlantic hurricane season hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean

The 1920 Atlantic hurricane season featured tropical storms and hurricanes only in the month of September. Although no "hurricane season" was defined at the time, the present-day delineation of such is June 1 to November 30. The first system, a hurricane, developed on September 7 while the last, a tropical depression, transitioned into an extratropical cyclone on October 27. Of note, four of the six cyclones co-existed with another tropical cyclone during the season.

Hurricane Chantal (1989) Category 1 Atlantic hurricane in 1989

Hurricane Chantal was one of three tropical cyclones to make landfall in Texas during the 1989 Atlantic hurricane season. The third named storm and the first hurricane of the season, Chantal slowly developed on July 30 in the southern Gulf of Mexico from a tropical disturbance that was previously within Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) while near Trinidad and Tobago. While heading north-northwestward, the depression steadily intensified and was upgraded to Tropical Storm Chantal on the following day. Thereafter, Chantal quickly strengthen and became a hurricane on August 1. After intensifying slightly further, Chantal made landfall near High Island, Texas later that day. The storm quickly weakened upon moving inland and fell to tropical storm intensity a few hours after landfall. Early on August 2, Chantal weakened to a tropical depression and dissipated over Oklahoma by August 4.

Hurricane Audrey Category 4 Atlantic hurricane in 1957

Hurricane Audrey was one of the deadliest tropical cyclones in U.S. history, as well as the strongest June hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic basin, tied with Hurricane Alex in 2010. The rapidly developing storm struck southwestern Louisiana as a powerful Category 3 hurricane, destroying coastal communities with a powerful storm surge that penetrated as far as 20 mi (32 km) inland. The first named storm and hurricane of the annual hurricane season, it formed on June 24 from a tropical wave which moved into the Bay of Campeche. Situated within ideal conditions for tropical development, Audrey quickly strengthened, reaching hurricane status a day afterwards. Moving northwards, 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 at 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 Category 1 Atlantic hurricane in 1971

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.

Hurricane Humberto (2007) Category 1 Atlantic hurricane in 2007

Hurricane Humberto was a Category 1 hurricane that formed and intensified faster than any other North Atlantic tropical cyclone on record, before landfall. Developing on September 12, 2007, in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico, the tropical cyclone rapidly strengthened and struck High Island, Texas, with winds of about 90 mph (150 km/h) early on September 13. It steadily weakened after moving ashore, and on September 14, Humberto began dissipating over northwestern Georgia as it interacted with an approaching cold front.

Tropical Storm Felice Atlantic tropical storm in 1970

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 Abby (1964)

Tropical Storm Abby was an exceptionally small tropical cyclone that had minor effects across Southeast Texas in early August 1964. Forming as a tropical depression out of a trough south of Louisiana on August 5, the system moved generally westward. It was not until August 7 that the system began to organize. That day, an eye rapidly formed within the system and it became a tropical storm just 60 mi (95 km) southeast of Galveston, Texas. Soon thereafter, a weather reconnaissance plane reported a barometric pressure of 1000 mbar at the storm's center. Around 18:00 UTC, the newly named Abby attained peak winds of 65 mph (100 km/h). It subsequently made landfall near Matagorda, Texas four hours later. Once onshore gradual weakening ensued, though a brief period of re-organization delayed its dissipation. Abby degenerated into an area of showers on August 8 southwest of San Antonio, Texas.

Tropical Storm Candy Atlantic tropical storm in 1968

Tropical Storm Candy produced minor impact in the state of Texas during the 1968 Atlantic hurricane season. The third tropical cyclone of the annual season, it developed from a tropical disturbance in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico on June 22. Gradual strengthening occurred, with the depression becoming Tropical Storm Candy on the following day. The storm reached its peak intensity of 70 mph (110 km/h) later that day and made landfall Port Aransas, Texas on June 23. Candy weakened into a tropical depression only hours after moving inland. However, the system remained a designated cyclone until June 26, at which time it completed extratropical transition over the state of Michigan.

Tropical Storm Debra (1978) Atlantic tropical storm in 1978

Tropical Storm Debra was the second of two tropical storms to hit the United States in the 1978 Atlantic hurricane season. The fourth named storm of the season, Debra developed from the interaction between a high-altitude cold low and a lower tropical wave in the Gulf of Mexico. Forming on August 25, it was upgraded to Tropical Storm Debra based on data from a Hurricane Hunter aircraft. As Debra approached the coast, it attained peak winds of 60 mph (95 km/h). The storm made landfall on the coast of Louisiana, east of the Texas border. Two deaths were caused by the storm. Debra weakened as it moved inland and ultimately dissipated on August 29 over Arkansas.

1960 Texas tropical storm Atlantic tropical storm in 1960

The 1960 Texas tropical storm brought severe but localized flooding to southeastern Texas in June 1960. The first tropical cyclone and first tropical storm of the 1960 Atlantic hurricane season, this system developed from an area of showers and thunderstorms in the Bay of Campeche on June 22. Initially a tropical depression, it strengthened and was estimated to have reached tropical storm status on June 23. Early on the following day, the storm peaked with winds of 45 mph (75 km/h). Later that day, it made landfall near Corpus Christi, Texas, at the same intensity. The storm weakened slowly and moved across the Central United States, before dissipating over Illinois on June 29.

Hurricane Debra (1959) Category 1 Atlantic hurricane in 1959

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.


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