ABC13 Vault: The surprise hurricane of 1943

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Monday, July 27, 2020
Texas coast surprised by hurricane in 1943
The Texas coast was surprised by a Category 2 hurricane in 1943

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- It was called the "surprise hurricane" of 1943, and it changed the way we forecast storms and advise the public.

The U.S. was in the middle of World War II. In Texas, the biggest threat from Nazi Germany was submarines, called U-boats, in the Gulf of Mexico. Because of the threats from U-boats, ships were not allowed to broadcast on their radios. This included weather reports that the National Weather Service relied on for storm forecasting.

As the "surprise hurricane" approached the Texas coast, almost no information was known about the storm. A day before landfall, a small article was published in local papers warning of a tropical storm and winds of 30-40 mph along the coast.

The Category 2 hurricane made landfall on July 27, 1943, on the Bolivar Peninsula. The storm caused damage in Galveston, Texas City and other communities on the Gulf Coast. Nineteen people were killed and thousands of buildings were damaged.

The hurricane was the first storm to have an aircraft fly into the center. Colonel Joe Duckworth and Lt. Ralph O'Hair, flew an AT-6 "Texan" trainer from Bryan, Texas, into the eye of the hurricane. According to the National Weather Service, British pilots were making fun of American aircraft and Colonel Duckworth bet them he could fly the single engine trainer into the hurricane.

To learn more about hurricane of 1943, visit the National Weather Service.