1989's Hurricane Jerry: It's important

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I arrived in Houston in March 1989,  and that summer, we had our first Tropical Storm Allison, Hurricane Chantal, then Hurricane Jerry.

In December, the temperature dropped to 7F, 11F and 13F over Christmas. I thought "What have I gotten myself into?"

But today, Oct. 16, marks the 30-year anniversary of Hurricane Jerry. The hurricane list of names gets rotated every six years, so we even had a Jerry this year. The Jerry of 1989 was not significant to most people to have the name retired. I remember it well.

For one thing, the storm came in on Sunday, Oct. 15, making an official landfall at 7:30 p.m. (by UTC time this was just after midnight on Monday, Oct. 16). I was the weekend weatherman then, so this was "my" storm. TV stations did not go all-hands-on-deck like they do now.

Jerry moved erratically. First, as a tropical wave in the Bay of Campeche, the forecast was for it to head northeast, more toward Louisiana. Warnings were issued from Freeport to Morgan City, Louisiana, so anything was possible and, as it happened, the main forecasting computer at the National Hurricane Center was on the fritz. Honestly, models back then were pretty bad:


Just before landfall in Jamaica Beach, the storm ramped up to 85 mph. Three people in one car drove off the Galveston sea wall and died. Twenty miles of Highway 87 between High Island and Sabine Pass were torn up and has never been fixed. Three tornadoes took off roofs in Galveston. Kemah was damaged to the tune of $2 million.

Across the USA, $70 million in damage occurred and the only fatalities were the ones in Galveston. 

So what's special about Jerry? Jerry is the latest recorded Texas landfalling hurricane by date. After Oct. 15, we can usually relax regarding the tropics. We've never had a hurricane later than the middle of this month. A solid benchmark.

Now all eyes on the Gulf for what may become Nestor in the next day. 

Forecast models are a billion times better now and the forecast for this storm, which now actually has a 50% development chance during the next 5 days, is for it to move northeast. Away from Texas:

But never forget Jerry of 1989. You never know until you know.


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About the Author:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with three decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.