Friday, March 11, 2011

Hurricane Allen 1980 - 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History - Disasters

Painted on boarded-up windows of downtown stores.
The prompt for Week 10 of 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History is Disasters:

Did you experience any natural disasters in your lifetime? Tell us about them.

Having spent most of the first 26 years of my life on or near coastal Texas, in Houston and Corpus Christi, hurricanes were often a threatening, impending disaster.  I vaguely remember Dad hammering plywood up over the windows when I was young in preparation for various storms.  But the one I remember most was Hurricane Allen in 1980.

This was a scary storm to watch approaching in satellite photos.  The storm was HUGE, a Category 5 at most times, and completely filled the Gulf of Mexico.  Corpus Christi residents began to prepare.
Mark's boat, The Wagon, up on blocks on Shoreline Blvd.
I was living in a one-bedroom apartment on the second floor at the time, with only a large sliding glass door in the living room and a smaller window in the bedroom, both opening onto a balcony.  I put tape on the smaller window, and pushed my huge, heavy mahogany buffet in front of the sliding glass door.  Mark took his sailboat, a 22-foot Catalina called The Wagon, and had it pulled out of the City Marina and put up on blocks in the parking lot of a city building on adjacent Shoreline Boulevard.  This was a gamble that the storm would hit south of the city, which was how it was tracking at the time, and which turned out to be the case (the storm came ashore just north of Brownsville, which was about 124 miles south). If the storm had hit head-on or north of us, his boat could have been blown to bits. But by pulling it out, he avoided the damage many others suffered.

The storm came ashore late Saturday and early Sunday, August 9-10.  There was a storm surge up to 12 feet high, flooding, and wind damage.  The sounds of the storm were very frightening.  We spent most of it in the basement of the police headquarters, up on the Bluff, answering phone calls from panicked citizens.

Monday, August 11, I went back to work - at the time, I was with the city's Park and Recreation Department. The power was out and it was hot and humid, so I wore shorts and a t-shirt to work. The first order of business was pushing a couple inches of water out of our offices (one block off the seawall) - I used a downed parking sign to push water.  The wind and waves pushed boats in the marina up against the seawall.

Later that day I rode out with our parks superintendent to take photos of damage on Corpus Christi Beach (aka North Beach), where more than 200 buildings (about 75%) were destroyed and two people drowned (the only deaths directly attributable to the storm).  Other parks damage included many fishing piers and the destruction of the City Marina office:
After the storm, I spent some time as the City's liaison to a Red Cross Disaster Relief Center in Ben Garza Gym. Mark spent the next three years dealing with FEMA.

© Amanda Pape - 2011 - click here to e-mail me.


  1. So sorry you guys had to deal with that, but a wonderful story and GREAT pictures.

    While at work one day at the LCU library we had a small F1 tornado pass by. It blew out one glass emergency door in the library and broke all the windows out of our cars in the parking lot. Not too much damage. Can we count library floods as natural disasters? I have been through two of those!

  2. Great story and photos. And thanks for putting links to other information. It helped me really understand what everyone went through with Allen.

  3. Thanks for commenting, Annette and Tracy!

  4. Amanda - I really enjoy your blog, so please accept the “One Lovely Blog” award. More info.