Hurricane Alicia: Wikis


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Hurricane Alicia
Category 3 hurricane (SSHS)

Hurricane Alicia before landfall.
Formed August 15, 1983 (1983-08-15)
Dissipated August 21, 1983 (1983-08-22)
115 mph (185 km/h) (1-minute sustained)
Lowest pressure 963 mbar (hPa; 28.44 inHg)
Fatalities 21 direct
Damage $2.6 billion (1983 USD)
$5.7 billion (2009 USD)
Eastern Texas (particularly around Houston) and Louisiana
Part of the
1983 Atlantic hurricane season

Hurricane Alicia was the third depression, the first tropical storm, and the only major hurricane of the 1983 Atlantic hurricane season. It struck Galveston and Houston, Texas directly, causing $2.6 billion USD ($5.27 billion 2006 USD) in damage and killing 21 people; this made it the worst Texas hurricane since Hurricane Carla (1961 season),[1] and Texas' first billion-dollar storm.[2] Hurricane Alicia became the last major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) to strike Texas until the stronger Hurricane Bret in 1999 made landfall. Alicia was the first storm for which the National Hurricane Center issued landfall probabilities.[3]

Hurricane Alicia was notable for the delayed post storm evacuation of Galveston Island (since the eye of the storm traveled the evacuation route up I-45 from Galveston to Houston). The hurricane was also notable for the shattering of many windows in downtown Houston by loose gravel from the roofs of new skyscrapers[4] and by other debris,[5] prompting changes to rooftop construction codes.

Hurricane Alicia was the first hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland since Hurricane Allen in August 1980. The time between the two storms totaled out to three years and eight days (1103 days), the longest gap between hurricanes striking the United States during recorded hurricane history. The time was the longest the Texas coast has gone without a hurricane landfall since a nearly four year hiatus in hurricanes occurred between September 1882 and June 1886.[6]


Meteorological history

Storm path
Hurricane Alicia on August 17, 1983

A mesoscale low-pressure area formed off the Alabama and Mississippi coasts on August 14 near the west end of a weak frontal trough that had extended across the eastern seaboard.[1] Pressures were high in the Gulf of Mexico, but the low strengthened into Tropical Depression Three on August 15, and became Tropical Storm Alicia later that day. With the high Gulf pressures – a ship reported a pressure of 1015.5 millibars less than 60 miles (97 km) from the storm center at the time it was upgraded to a tropical storm – Alicia was unable to gain size, staying very small, but generated faster winds, and became a Category 1 hurricane on August 16

Steering currents were weak during Alicia's lifetime over water. A new frontal ridge had formed on August 17 which caused the storm to drift in a westerly direction.[1] Alicia continued west until the frontal ridge had subsided to the east.[7] Alicia turned to a more northerly direction on August 18, towards Port Arthur, Texas. During that time, the hurricane began to gain strength at about 1 mbar an hour, peaking at 963 mbar with winds of 115 mph (185 km/h) on the morning of the 18th. Just before landfall, Alicia exhibited a rare "double eye" feature for several hours.[8] The storm made landfall near Galveston, Texas as a Category 3 hurricane at about 2:00 a.m. CDT on Thursday, August 18.[1] Alicia weakened rapidly after landfall, losing tropical characteristics and accelerated to the northwest, finally losing its identity in the southeast tip of Nebraska on August 21.[1]


Several watches and warnings were issued in association with Alicia. The first ones were a gale warning and a hurricane watch for the area between Corpus Christi, Texas and Grand Isle, Louisiana issued on August 16. On August 17, a hurricane warning was issued for the coastline from Corpus Christi to Morgan City, Louisiana, and later for Port Arthur, Texas southward.[3] Initially, however, residents did not take the warnings seriously. Galveston Mayor E. Gus Manuel, against the advice of Texas Governor Mark White, ordered the evacuation of only low-lying areas.[5] (About 30 percent of Galveston's population evacuated the island when Hurricane Allen threatened the eastern Texas coastline in 1980; only 10 percent of the population living behind the seawall chose to leave when Alicia came ashore.)[4] Throughout the day, however, as the increasing winds began to cause damage in Galveston, people grew more concerned. The mayor finally ordered a widespread evacuation of the island after midnight on August 18, but by then, the bridges to the mainland were uncrossable.[5]




Alicia's storm total rainfall

Galveston reported 7+34 in (197 mm) of rain, Liberty reported 9+12 in (241 mm) of rain, and Greens Bayou reported almost 10 inches (250 mm). Centerville reported over 8 inches (200 mm), with Normangee and Noxia reporting over 7 inches (180 mm).[9] Maximum rainfall in the Houston area in Harris County was about 10–11 inches (250–280 mm), while 8 inches (200 mm) of rain was reported in Leon County and 9 inches (230 mm) in the Sabine River area. High gusts were reported throughout Texas, with a maximum gust of 125 mph (201 km/h) reported on the Coast Guard cutter Buttonwood (WLB-306) stationed at the northeastern tip of Galveston Island.[8] Pleasure Pier reported tides of 8.67 feet (2.64 m), with Pier 21 reporting a little over 5.5 feet (1.7 m). Baytown, Texas reported 10-12 ft tides, and Morgan City reported 12.1 ft (3.7 m), the highest recorded as a result of Alicia.[9] The storm also caused extensive disruption of power services. A Paul Simon-Art Garfunkel reunion concert scheduled for the Astrodome was cancelled due to the coming storm.

Twenty-three tornadoes were reported in association with Alicia.[10] Fourteen of those were located in the Galveston and Hobby Airport area.[10] The other nine were concentrated around Tyler to Houston, Texas,[10] ranging around F2 on the Fujita scale.

A major oil spill occurred around Texas City, and an ocean-going tugboat capsized 50 miles (80 km) off the Sabine Pass coast.[11] The Coast Guard Air Station Houston (AIRSTA) weathered Alicia with little damage, and afterwards AIRSTA's helicopters assisted residents with evacuation, supply, and survey flights.[12]

Sixty gallons of water had to be removed from the National Weather Service office in Galveston;[11] this weather office also temporarily lost its radar.[13] Houston suffered billions of dollars in damage. Thousands of glass panes in downtown skyscrapers were shattered by gravel blown off rooftops.[4] Although Alicia was a small Category 3 hurricane, a total of 2297 dwellings were destroyed by Alicia, with another 3000+ experiencing major damage. Over ten thousand dwellings had minor damage.[10] Houston Lighting and Power reported that about 750,000 homes were without electricity after Alicia hit. Many stores had to stay closed for days afterward due to risks of falling glass in the area.[14]

Wind damage from Alicia photographed from a NOAA helicopter.

In Galveston, the western beach had its public beach boundary shifted back about 150 feet (46 m).[15 ] About 5 feet (1.5 m) of sand was scoured, leaving beachfront homes in a natural vegetation state. This moved many beachfront homes onto public beach, and the Attorney General's office declared that they were in violation of the Texas Open Beaches Act and forbade the repair or rebuilding of those homes.[15 ] The Corps of Engineers stated that if the Galveston Sea Wall had not been there, that another $100 million in damage could have occurred.[15 ] Also, if Alicia had been the size of Hurricane Carla from 1961, damage could have easily doubled or possibly tripled.[15 ] Alicia also did damage to chemical and petrochemical plants in Houston.[16]


As Alicia progressed northward, it produced heavy precipitation in several other areas. In Oklahoma, the rain amounted to 5.51 inches (0.140 m) in south-central portions of the state. Parts of Kansas and Nebraska received 1 to 3 inches (0.025 to 0.076 m) of rainfall. Other states, including Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Louisiana and Wisconsin experienced light rainfall from the remnants of the storm.[17]


The Red Cross had to provide food and shelter to 63,000 people in the hurricane's wake, costing about 166 million dollars.[10][15 ] FEMA gave out $32 million (1983 USD) to Alicia's victims and local governments. $23 million of that was for picking up debris spread after Alicia.[18] More than 16,000 people sought help from FEMA's disaster service centers. The Small Business Administration, aided with 56 volunteers, interviewed over 16,000 victims, and it was predicted that about 7000 loan applications would be submitted. The Federal Insurance Agency had closed over 1318 flood insurance cases from Alicia's aftermath, however only 782 received final payment.[18]

On September 23 and September 24, 1983, in the wake of Alicia, two subcommittees of the U.S. House of Representatives held hearings in Houston. The hearing on September 23 were to examine the primary issues of the National Weather Service during Alicia, the effectiveness of the N.W.S in current procedures, and the use of the National Weather Service. The second hearing, which occurred on September 24, was to discuss the damage and recovery efforts during Alicia.[18]

During the September 23 hearing, witnesses agreed that the National Weather Service (NWS) did well before and during the emergency caused by Alicia. NWS forecasters also testified in which they said they gratified themselves that their predictions were well "on target" and that the local emergency plans had worked so well, which saved many lives. Mayor Gus Manuel on Galveston claimed that the NWS did an excellent job during Alicia. He was also very impressed about their landfall predictions on August 17, before Alicia made landfall.[18]

During the September 24 hearing, evidence was presented which demonstrated the need for improving readiness to cope with disasters, such as Alicia. Mayor Manuel mentioned that his town needed stronger building codes, which were under review.[18]


Due to the severe damage, the name "Alicia" was retired in the spring of 1984, and will never be used again for an Atlantic hurricane. It was replaced with "Allison" for 1989 season; however, "Allison" was retired after a tropical storm in 2001, and was replaced by "Andrea".

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e National Hurricane Center (NHC) (1983). "Hurricane Alicia Preliminary Report: Page 1-Storm History". NHC. Retrieved 2007-04-02.  
  2. ^ Texas State Library (2007). "Texas Governors". Texas State Library. Retrieved 2007-04-02.  
  3. ^ a b National Hurricane Center (NHC) (1983). "Hurricane Alicia Preliminary Report — Page 4 - Strike Probs — Watches/Warnings". NHC. Retrieved 2007-04-02.  
  4. ^ a b c U.S.A. Today (2007). "Hurricane Alicia, 1983". U.S.A. Today. Retrieved 2007-04-02.  
  5. ^ a b c Isaacson, Walter (1983-08-29), "Coping with Nature", TIME,,9171,949758,00.html  
  6. ^ Hurricane Research Division (2007). [ Chronological List of All Hurricanes which Affected the Continental United States: 1851-2007..] Retrieved on 2008-12-26.
  7. ^ Robert Case and Harold Gerrish (1984). "1983 Monthly Weather Review" (PDF). National Hurricane Center. Retrieved 2007-04-02.  
  8. ^ a b U.S. Army (2007). "STORM DEVELOPMENT AND HISTORY". US Army. Retrieved 2007-04-02.  
  9. ^ a b NHC (1983). "Hurricane Alicia Preliminary Report — Page 5".  
  10. ^ a b c d e National Hurricane Center (NHC) (1983). "Hurricane Alicia Prelimary Report — Page 2 - Impact". NHC. Retrieved 2007-04-02.  
  11. ^ a b National Weather Office — Lake Charles, LA (2007). "Texas Hurricane History: Late 20th Century". NOAA. Retrieved 2007-04-02.  
  12. ^ U.S. Military (2007). "Houston Coast Guard". U.S. Military. Retrieved 2007-04-02.  
  13. ^ U.S. Army (2007). "Warnings". U.S. Army. Retrieved 2007-04-02.  
  14. ^ Unknown (2007). "Bayside hurricane's Alicia page". Geocities. Retrieved 2007-04-02.  
  15. ^ a b c d e National Weather Office — Houston-Galveston (2007). "Upper Texas Coast Tropical Cyclones in the 1980s". NOAA. Retrieved 2007-04-02.  
  16. ^ Mark Levitan (2007). "Are Chemical Plants Really Safe?" (PDF). Louisiana State University. Retrieved 2007-04-02.  
  17. ^ David Roth (2007). "Tropical Cyclone Rainfall: Hurricane Alicia". Hydrometeorogical Prediction Center. Retrieved 2007-04-02.  
  18. ^ a b c d e Subcommittee on Natural Resources, Agriculture Research and Environment (1983). "Hurricane Alicia: Prediction, Damage & Recovery Efforts" (PDF). (same). Retrieved 2007-04-02.  
Tropical cyclones of the 1983 Atlantic hurricane season
Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale
TD TS 1 2 3 4 5


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