Texas may be hot and dry in the summer, but did you know that it’s seen at least 225 historic floods since 1850? Some have occurred recently (Remember spring 2015?), and some have been documented as early as 1875!
Click on the infographic below to learn about 6 of the worst storms in Texas history, as well as flood prevention and safety tips. And scroll down to find out even more!
Staying Safe During a Flood
Floods are a natural part of living in Texas, but they should never be taken lightly. Although many homeowners fear fire damage, water damage is 10 times more likely to occur. Floods can happen quickly and without warning.
If you are ever caught in a flood:
- Head to higher ground, and avoid areas that are considered flood zones.
- Do not walk across flooded streams or attempt to drive over them. They may be deeper and stronger than they look. Two feet of water is powerful enough to sweep away your car.
- If water is rising in your home before you evacuate, go to the top-most floor or to the roof.
- Do not go near downed power lines or enter a home with standing water if the electricity is still on.
The Dangers of Flood Waters
Besides the costly damage of ruined walls, roofs, and more due to flood waters, the water can be costly in other ways. For instance, it’s dangerous for your health. It can contain mud, bacteria, sewage, toxins, and more, making for an exceedingly nasty mess in your home. Letting the residue or water sit for an extended period of time can increase the damage to your property and also pose a serious health threat.
Preventing Flood Damage
It’s important to act quickly during and after a storm, but you can also take some steps towards flood prevention before the storm happens.
- Know the risks of your area.
- Have electronics and other equipment elevated out of the flood zone
- Keep sandbags on hand.
- Plastic sheeting and plywood can be placed around your home to help keep waters out.
- Install flood-stop devices in areas like bathrooms, laundry rooms, and on water heaters to shut down the water to that area should there be a leak at the washing machine or from a water heater.
And now a rundown of some of the worst storms and flooding in Texas history…
1. Colorado River Flood of 1869
- Total storm duration: 64 hours
- Colorado River height: 51 feet
On July 3, 1869, Austin experienced the greatest rainfall in the city’s history! The storm lasted 64 hours, completely covering lower Austin, Webberville, and Bastrop with flood waters. Heavy rain combined with flooding down the Colorado River was mostly to blame for this catastrophe. At one point, the Colorado River was actually at 51 feet, a height rarely ever seen again.
Residents living at the time could not recall a worse situation. Later floods in their lifetimes didn’t even come close to matching the magnitude of the flood of 1869. The record was finally broken in 1921.
2. Thrall Flood of 1921
- Deadliest flood in Texas history
- Total (max) rainfall: 40 inches
- Lives lost: 224
- Property losses: $19 million
The flooding that occurred from September 8 to 10 in 1921 is considered the deadliest flood in Texas’s history. Originally a tropical storm, it reached hurricane strength just before landfall, hitting Central Texas with full force. In 1 day, 23.11 inches of rain fell on the state, and by the end of the 2 days, a total of 40 inches had fallen in some counties. There were a few areas that actually saw up to 10 feet of water in the streets!
In total, 224 lives were lost due to the storm—215 in Texas. San Antonio was gravely hit after the city saw 18 inches of rain, causing $5 million in damage and killing 51 local residents. In response, the city built the Olmos Dam to help protect downtown San Antonio from future floods. Across Texas, the tropical storm caused over $19 million in property losses.
3. Hurricane Carla (1961)
- Wind speeds: 175 MPH
- Damage: $408 million
- Lives lost: 32
- Tornadoes spawned: 8
- Storm surge: 22 feet
Hurricane Carla crossed over into Texas on September 11, 1961. For three days, she pounded the coastline. Although her rain was not extremely intense, Carla ranked as a Category 5 hurricane prior to making landfall and is considered to be one of the strongest storms to hit the state in the past 100 years. There were reports of 175 MPH winds…until the recording equipment was blown away!
After Carla ended, the state was left with over $408 million worth of damage across the coastline ($2.36 billion today). Crops were destroyed, including unharvested rice and cotton, and nearly 3,000 businesses and homes were demolished. Forty-six people were killed—32 in Texas—and more than 460 people were injured. Prior storms in the area had seen over 400 deaths, but thanks to new evacuation measures along the coast, hundreds of lives were saved.
Hurricane Carla was indeed a horrific storm, plunging 1.7 million acres of Texas land underwater and spawning 8 tornadoes throughout the area. It also saw the highest storm surge in the history of the state: 22 feet.
4. Hurricane Beulah (1967)
- Rainfall: 34 inches
- Lives lost: 44
- Property damage: $140 million
- Tornadoes spawned: 115
Not too long after Hurricane Carla, the state met Beulah. Due to rainfall, residents saw record-breaking floods along streams and rivers, especially in southern Texas. Some counties reported over 34 inches of precipitation along the Nueces River Basin. In the end, Beulah hit 39 counties, resulting in 44 deaths and over $140 million in property damage.
Just like Carla, Hurricane Beulah also caused tornadoes—this time 115 tornadoes! The flooding and damages closed major roads and highways for over six weeks. Several bridges were even destroyed.
5. Mayfest Storm (1995)
- Wind speeds: 70 MPH
- Rainfall: 4.96 inches
- Lives lost: 20
- Damage: $2 billion
On May 5, 1995, a supercell caught everyone in the Dallas and Tarrant Counties completely off-guard. With no warning, a storm hit the area with 70 MPH winds, softball-sized hail, and heavy rain. When the storm hit, the outdoor festival known as the Fort Worth Mayfest was taking place. It hit the festival full on, earning its name.
The Mayfest Storm is the perfect example of how much damage a fast-moving, powerful thunderstorm can cause. Twenty lives were lost, and over 100 people were severely injured by hail. After it was all over, it was calculated to have caused over $2 billion in damage, becoming one of the costliest hailstorms in history. Cars, buildings, homes, and roofs were destroyed; many houses actually collapsed due to the intense winds.
Due to the lack of warning, 9-1-1 centers were overwhelmed with calls and became jammed. As a result, the volunteers at the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) now attend every Mayfest with a mobile weather command center. Thanks to their efforts, the event can be evacuated in 30 minutes if a storm is ever detected.
6. Tropical Storm Allison (2001)
- Duration of storm: 15 days
- Wind speeds: 50 MPH
- Rainfall: 36 inches
Because it took place so recently, you might remember Tropical Storm Allison. After it had passed, 27 counties declared a federal disaster. Ninety-five thousand cars were damaged, 73,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, and 30,000 residents were suddenly homeless. Harrison County alone saw over $5 billion in damage, making this tropical storm the costliest in our nation’s history.
Part of the reason Allison was so devastating was her long lifespan and trajectory. The storm lasted 15 days. During that time, she stalled, reversed, and then hit the same area a second time. Allison formed extremely quickly over the Gulf and pounded Texas with 50 MPH winds. Thirty-six inches of rain fell in some locations; Houston actually saw 28 inches in just 12 hours.
Please always take precautions during a flood. Listen to the radio for emergency broadcasts, and keep an eye out for evacuation notices. If you’d like more information on flood-stop devices, their installation, or other flood prevention measures for your home, give C&W Plumbing a call at 972-395-2597. We offer 24/7 emergency service and don’t charge extra for Saturday appointment times, so don’t hesitate! Stay safe, Texas!
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