Effects of Hurricane Celia: A Focus on Environmental Geologic Problems of the Texas Coastal Zone

At 10 pm (CDT) on Friday, July 31, 1970, a tropical squall struck the western tip of Cuba causing property damage and the loss of 5 lives. Twelve hours later at 10 am (CDT), Saturday, August 1, the tropical depression had moved 150 miles northwest and had intensified into Tropical Storm Celia. At 5 pm (CDT) the same day, Celia was located about 225 miles northwest of Cuba with 75-mile-per-hour cyclonic winds classifying her as a full-fledged hurricane. Twenty hours later at 1 pm (CDT) on Sunday, August 2, Hurricane Celia was 290 miles directly south of New Orleans, Louisiana, moving northwest toward Galveston, Texas, at less than 20 miles per hour. During the next several hours Celia changed direction and forward speed several times. In the early hours on Monday, August 3, as Celia lined up on a course toward the relatively uninhabited coastline near Baffin Bay, her destructive core approximately doubled in size in less than three hours. Then between 8 and 10 am (CDT) on the 3rd, Celia suddenly veered to the northwest toward Port Aransas (cover photograph). At the same time her turbulent core shrank by approximately 40 percent, coincident with a rapid increase in the velocity of her 90-mile-per-hour counterclockwise winds. Moving coastward at 10 to 15 miles per hour, Celia struck the Texas coastal bend at Port Aransas by mid­afternoon, and shortly after 4 pm (CDT) southwest winds on the back side of Celia reached 30-second gusts of 160 to 180 miles per hour with sustained winds of 130 miles per hour. The most intense winds moved through Port Aransas, Aransas Pass, Ingleside, Portland, and the north part of Corpus Christi. During the three to four hours that highly destructive winds pounded the Texas coast, 11 lives were lost and almost 500 persons were injured. Orton (1970) esti­mated that more than $400 million dollars’ worth of crops and property damage was sustained. Almost 70, 000 families suffered losses from Celia’s winds. More than 9, 000 homes were destroyed, 14,000 homes suffered damage, 250 businesses and about 350 boats and 300 farm buildings were destroyed or damaged. Most serious damage resulted from winds, since Celia failed to generate the high storm-surge flood tides and extensive rains typical of many hurricanes. Celia rambled west and northwest to Del Rio, the Big Bend region, and eventually died quietly in the mountains of Chihuahua, Mexico, at 4 am (CDT) on Wednesday, August 5, 102 hours after her birth near Cuba.
Joseph H. McGowen
Charles G. Groat
L. Frank Brown, Jr.
William L. Fisher
Alan J. Scott

McGowen, J. H., Groat, C. G., Brown, L. F., Jr., Fisher, W. L., and Scott, A. J., 1970, Effects of Hurricane Celia: A Focus on Environmental Geologic Problems of the Texas Coastal Zone: The University of Texas at Austin, Bureau of Economic Geology, Geological Circular 70-3, 35 p.

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The University of Texas at Austin, Bureau of Economic Geology
Geological Circular