Hurricane’s coming-sooner or later

Probably not today but eventually the odds are in favor of getting one. Corpus Christi has a long storm history. 

Growing up in George West, 70 miles from the coast, we got more storm refugees than storm winds.   As the principal, our dad opened George West’s high school for folks fleeing coastal areas and needing some place to light.  Working with the Red Cross, he had food, water, cots and blankets to distribute.

Carla and Beulah are the first storms I remember from the 60’s. and I remember them more for the chance to be out of school a few days than damage they caused our community.   We stayed with Mother while Daddy along with teachers and coaches from the district made sure the school was secure and the evacuees were comfortable. 

Until I worked for the City of Corpus Christi and was assigned an elementary school to open for local residents in the event of a hurricane, I didn’t realize what a pain in the bum this duty must have been.  We dodged the bullet for a few years; after Katrina, the City policy shifted to evacuation rather than using refuges of last resort.  That’s what they call shelters:  refuges of last resort.  Sounds pretty dire. 

The school plan was broken into areas for singles, families, activities, morgue.  Morgue?  That really would be a refuge of last resort.

Artifacts from San Esteban and El Spiritu Santo wrecked in 1554

If you go to the Corpus Christi Museum (Museum of Science and History), you’ll see treasure from Spanish ships that wrecked off the coast of Padre Island during a hurricane.  It dates from the 16th century.  There’s a pretty good gap between recorded hurricane history for the area. 

The Corpus Christi Herald, the local paper in the 1800’s, states that:  

A Storm on Sept 5th, 1874 with waves mountainous high came through the Bay. Heavy winds and rains continued until 3 PM on the 5th, when the eye passed overhead. Winds that evening increased out the south with greater force. Schooners were shoved inland, ramming houses and trees along their way. Water Street was wiped out of existence. Half the chickens in Corpus Christi met an untimely fate.

Area behind Chaparral St. in Corpus Christi after the storm

There were at least 4 recorded hurricanes in the 19th century; the 1917-1918 drought was ended with the Hurricane of  1919.  News accounts state that the storm started Saturday night with a light breeze from the north, steadily increasing in intensity, while the tide rose rapidly.  The storm surge was officially recorded at 16′.  A letter from Marie Sharkey to her mother says that “the city is without drinking water.   There were no lights or gas tonight and the food supply was insufficient. Unless help reaches here tomorrow morning there will be serious suffering it is feared…The entire North Beach residential section of the City has been swept clean…”

There are markers in Portland for the dead who had washed ashore near Indian Point and were buried in mass graves.  A partial listing of the dead from the paper puts a personal note to the deceased:

JOSE HERNANDEZ, Mexican.
PABLITA HERNANDEZ, his daughter about 12 years old.
GEORGE HERNANDEZ, his son, about 10 years old.
H. PRATER, city policeman, formerly street car conductor.
JACOB BORN, son of Mr. and Mrs. E. A. Born, drowned while attempting to reach his sister.
MRS. ROYAL BROOKS at the Spohn Sanitarium.

Carla remains the most intense storm to hit Texas

Carla, 1961, got alot of press.  It’s still the largest storm system to hit Texas.  The Caller-Times reported that:  “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.  Surging waves tossed a large shrimp boat atop a 15 foot seawall. Towering waves and winds hitting up to 140 m. p. h. in gusts wrecked piers, beach houses and boats, and knocked out power and communications.”

Beulah, for me, is remembered because of Three Rivers getting flooded.  The schools stayed opened an extended period of time to house the victims from that small community which sits at the convergence of the Frio, Atascosa, and Nueces Rivers.  Their only claim to fame (notoriety?) prior to that flood was as the town where the director of the only funeral parlor in town refused to hold chapel services in

Nueces River near Calallen after Beulah

1949 for a Hispanic soldier killed during WWII.  (Lyndon Johnson, freshman senator from Texas, intervened and had Pvt. Felix Longoria’s remains moved to Arlington National Cemetery.)

Most folks in Portland who lived in Celia can tell horror stories of a storm that meandered weakly in the Gulf and then came ashore at 160 mph.  It wasn’t expected to be much of anything and many who thought they’d just ride out the storm ended up hunkered down in the bathroom linen closet or racing to the local elementary school when the eye of the storm passed. 

People standing in line for hours for ice, clean water, food after Celia

Frances Martinez, GE’s babysitter, talked about weeks of no electricity with windows torn out and only the whine of mosquitos breaking the unnatural silence.  She and her husband spent nights awake with uncomfortable, crying children and fears of looters. 

We haven’t had much here since Celia.  There’ve been near misses and tropical storms that caused more damage than you’d expect.  But we’re still waiting for “The Big One.”  I’d just as soon take a pass.

About texasgaga

I am a mom, a grandmom (Gaga to my 2nd oldest grand-child), a sister, a friend, a construction estimator, a homeowner, an active member of a 12 step recovery group, an artist, a reader, a survivor, a do it yourself wannabe, a laugher
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