The Last Hurricane: Houston Has Been Lucky Since Alicia 30 Years Ago
On my first day of high school, my parents drove me from my aunt's house. We were all living there because our house on the north side of town still had no power thanks to Hurricane Alicia, a storm that hit Houston 30 years ago this past weekend. And while Alicia may not have been a monster storm -- technically a Category 3, but not nearly as strong as a bigger storm like Hurricane Rita -- it did a ton of damage, flooded the city and knocked the power out for thousands of residents.
But it was Houston's last great hurricane. As tough as Ike was on parts of Galveston and certainly Bolivar Peninsula, the wind damage it inflicted on Houston proper was relatively modest compared to Alicia and the water damage wasn't anything like Tropical Storm Allison.
This doesn't mean we haven't suffered our share of damage. As mentioned, Ike was quite the beast even if it was only a Category 2 storm, and Allison was one of the worst disasters in Houston history. But we have not had to weather a serious hurricane in a very long time. Some might argue that even Alicia doesn't really rate as a "great" storm. For some, like my parents, you have to go back to Hurricane Carla in 1961. Carla was, at one point, a Category 5 monster. My mom tells tales of how she could hear the shingles peeling off the roof from the high winds.
It's also worth noting that both Alicia and Carla were storm names in the lower alphabet. We are already on our fourth named storm of the year this year and it's two weeks from September and more than three weeks from the peak of hurricane season. This is thanks to a period of increased hurricane activity referred to by scientists as the "tropical multi-decadal signal." This began for us almost 20 years ago in 1995 and normally lasts 20 to 40 years.
Still, we have been lucky. With only two hurricanes and one nasty tropical storm in the last 30 years, we've avoided the worst of it for quite some time. But then again, it had more than 30 years since the last major storm hit Houston when Alicia came on shore in Galveston. Let's hope it's another 30 before the next one.