Published: August 26,2017
Harvey is the first Texas landfalling hurricane in almost nine years, since infamous Hurricane Ike devastated the Upper Texas coast. Harvey made landfall on the evening of Aug. 25 near Rockport, Texas with winds of 130 mph.
(MORE: Latest Harvey Forecast)
Hurricane Ike slammed ashore near Galveston, Texas, as a Category 2 hurricane in the early-morning hours of Sept. 13, 2008 – the last time a hurricane made landfall in the Lone Star State.
A total of 15 hurricanes have made landfall in Texas since 1950, according to NOAA's Historical Hurricane Tracks database.
Only four of those landfalls have occurred this century: Claudette in July 2003, Humberto in September 2007, Dolly in July 2008 and Ike in September 2008. While striking the upper Texas coast, Rita in 2005 officially landfell in Louisiana.
(MORE: Hurricane Central)
The four Texas hurricane landfalls in the 21st century: Claudette (2003), Humberto (2007), Dolly (2008) and Ike (2008). Rita (2005) officially made landfall just across the border in southwest Louisiana.Parts of the Texas coast have the longest return intervals – the average number of years between occurrences – for hurricanes anywhere along the Gulf Coast, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Hurricanes typically hit coastal Texas every 9 years or longer, though some coastal Texas counties have a return period approaching 20 years.
The return intervals near the Texas Coastal Bend and South Texas, generally 13 to 19 years, are comparable to parts of the Northeast seaboard, from the Delmarva Peninsula to southeastern New England, as seen on the map below.
The color-coded numbers indicate the return period (years) of hurricanes along U.S. coastal counties.In fact, there have been only three hurricane landfalls since 1950 near the Coastal Bend of Texas, near and north of Corpus Christi, the last of which was Claudette in 2003. The two most notorious of these were Celia in 1970 and Carla in 1961.
So, hurricanes are not as common in South Texas as one would think for a Gulf Coast location.
Systems that form in the western Gulf of Mexico don't always have time to develop into hurricanes before making landfall.
Also, a number of hurricanes from the Caribbean Sea plow directly west-northwest into Mexico, rather than Texas. Late in the hurricane season, any western Caribbean hurricanes typically track north or northeast toward Florida or the eastern half of the Gulf of Mexico.
Thanks to the placement of the Bermuda high and upper-level steering winds, most hurricanes approaching from east of Florida tend to curve either off the East Coast, strike the East Coast, strike Florida, or curl toward the northern Gulf Coast, to the east of Texas.
Most other parts of the Gulf Coast have much lower return intervals – as low as 6 to 7 years in southeastern Louisiana and southwestern Florida.
(MORE: Three Reasons Slow-Moving Tropical Storms and Hurricanes Are the Worst)
Brian Donegan is a meteorologist at weather.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
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