Hurricane Alicia forms south of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico on this day in 1983. Three days later, the Texas Gulf Coast is slammed by the storm, causing 21 deaths, thousands of injuries and billions of dollars in damages.
When Alicia hit Galveston, Texas, it was the first hurricane to hit the United States in three years. It was a Category 3 hurricane, with sustained winds of nearly 100 mph and gusts up to 127 mph. The town of Seabrook on Galveston Bay endured a 12-foot storm surge and an 11-foot tide completely submerged buildings in the Brownwood development. Alicia also dropped prodigious amounts of rain on the area. Houston received 11 inches in a short period of time. Fortunately, Alicia moved so fast that inland areas did not suffer deadly flooding.
Hurricane Alicia also set off many tornadoes in southeast Texas. Fourteen were reported between Galveston and Houston in one day. In Houston, window panes on skyscrapers were broken by flying debris, unleashing flying shards of glass into the air over the downtown area. On the second day, nine more tornadoes were reported north of Houston.
In addition to the 21 people who lost their lives in the storms, 3,000 homes suffered severe damage and thousands of people required shelter assistance from the Red Cross. The $2 billion in damages recorded was a record for hurricane damage in Texas at the time. The environmental costs were also staggering. Thousands of trees were blown down. Galveston’s West Beach lost 150 feet of sand to sudden erosion from the storm. For the most part, though, Galveston’s seawall successfully protected the city. Afterwards, the Army Corps of Engineers estimated that without it, much of the city would have been destroyed.