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Remembering Hurricane Celia 1970
It definitely was a dark and stormy night the other evening when a surge of wind and rain came through Corpus Christi, where I live and it came on very suddenly. My husband and I had been watching the news at 10:00 and the weatherman said that we would be getting rain by 11:00 that night and that is what we had expected, a little bit of rain. What actually happened at about 11:30 was a very loud surge of wind that blew through our town with very heavy rain. It sounded like a tornado or a very mild hurricane because the whistling of the wind was overwhelming. It took us totally by surprise and we had to bring in our lawn furniture into the house because we started to hear things blowing around like crazy outside. About 15 minutes into the storm, the lights went out and they stayed out until about 4 a.m.
This occurrence started me thinking about the hurricane season and that we are at the beginnings of this horrid season here on the gulf coast. Corpus Christi hasn’t had a major storm hit since about 1999 and it made me think that this town is probably overdue for a storm of humongous proportions.
It led me to recall August 3, 1970 when Hurricane Celia hit Corpus Christi. I was 6 years old and there are some sketchy memories of this storm, but I definitely remember most of what happened and I have to tell you, whoever remembers this storm back then will most likely tell you that they will never forget it.
Aug 1, 1970- Aug 3, 1970
Hurricane Celia was definitely one of the most destructive storms that ever hit Corpus Christi, and if you want to think about the damage to the city, it was about 450 million, but in today’s dollars it would have been about 2 billion dollars in damage. Celia became a depression on August 1, 1970 out in the Caribbean. It started doing some damage in Cuba which caused torrential rain and flooding, which killed 5 people before it gained strength out in the coast,and it gained strength at a pretty rapid pace, because it took about 15 hours before it made landfall in Corpus Christi. The storm didn’t last long but the downbursts of heavy winds caused considerable damage in the downtown and residential areas of Corpus Christi. This hurricane introduced the fact that wind gusts far exceed the hurricane's sustained winds. It was a category 3 hurricane and some of the recorded winds reached up to 180 mph.
I remember my family sought shelter in a church that we belonged to because my father didn’t trust our house to be able to keep us safe during this storm and he was so right. The church was a brick and mortar type church which was pretty sturdy but I still remember windows breaking and water starting to flood inside the church. I know that there was some shelters throughout the city, but I don’t recall why we ended up in this shelter or the circumstances behind it. I do remember that once the eye of the storm was in the center of Corpus Christi there was a silence like I had never experienced. The sun actually came out and you could even see blue sky, but it didn’t last long as the back end of the storm came not long after and it started all over again. The wind sounded like a freight train getting ready to hit the building and I vividly remember my mother praying over and over. It was the scariest feeling ever. But somehow by the grace of God, we survived and it was over in a short period of time and dissipated over the eastern part of Texas.
When we left the church to go home, I remember my dad driving so slowly because there was a lot of rain and flooding and I even remember live wires sparkling on the ground. I remember seeing thick palm trees that had been bent like a matchstick. I saw boats on top of buildings and it looked like almost every building had been destroyed. When we got home we found that our house was still intact except for some broken windows, however I do remember many of the trees in our front yard had been jolted down from the strom. It was very scary for someone my age to see this. It was a traumatizing experience, so much so that later whenever my dad would watch the weather on the news, I would cringe and I would always ask him if there were any hurricanes coming our way again. I know he felt for me and always did his best to quiet my fears.
Although the damage could have been a lot worse, about 16 people died and 466 people were injured, and many people were displaced for a long time after the storm. I remember we didn’t have electricity for days after, maybe even weeks.
I also remember one of the headlines in a Corpus Christi newspaper of a picture of a straw that had gone almost all the way through a tree, which astonishes me. But you can never underestimate the power of hurricane winds. Although this was a category 3 hurricane, we know what a category 5 can do, i.e. Katrina.. Hopefully this hurricane season will be calm and not as active, but I am grateful that at least this town is very much more prepared than in the past.
I have found a video of some old footage of the aftermath of Hurricane Celia and I hope you take a minute to see the footage and get an idea of how bad this storm was.
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