On this date 31 years ago the center of Hurricane Alicia made landfall on the west end of Galveston.
It then passed just west of the downtown area of Houston creating billions of dollars in wind damage to homes and high-rises. Because of time passage and Hurricane Ike, much of the memory of Alicia is fading into the past.
Perhaps that is OK, as much has changed since 1983. The area population in 1983 was less than 2.8 million – today it is greater than six million. Less than 20 percent of the current residents in the Houston and Galveston area experienced Alicia.
Alicia led to stronger building codes for high-rise buildings, and more recently improvements have made in the residential building codes. Back in 1983 our area only needed 24 hours to evacuate everyone from surge risk communities – now we need upwards of 48 hours.
The 1983 season was impacted by a waning but still influential El Niño. The east Pacific was a hotbed of hurricane activity having 21 named storms by the end of October. The Atlantic had the least active season since the 1920s with only four named storms.
The 2014 season so far is eerily similar. The eastern Pacific is very active, with the 11th storm Karina, having formed on Aug. 12. The Atlantic had two hurricanes by Aug. 1 but has been quiet since.
Computer model forecasts show this trend to continue to the Labor Day weekend. Possibly two more storms could form by the end of August in the eastern Pacific while there is only a low chance for one forming in the Atlantic.
Let’s hope the similarity ends with the numbers and not with a land-falling hurricane in our backyard.