What kind of storm damage could we see if a Category 4 hurricane hit southeast Texas?

Climate experts say it's not if, but when a hurricane like Ida could hit southeast Texas

Nick Natario Image
Thursday, September 2, 2021
SE Texans can face months without power after Category 4 storm
What could happen to southeast Texas if it took a direct hit by a Category 4 hurricane? Experts say look at Louisiana now that it was battered by Hurricane Ida.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- After Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana, ABC13 is taking a look at what would happen in southeast Texas if a storm of that strength struck the Houston area.


Hurricane Ike struck southeast Texas 13 years ago this month. The powerful category 2 storm devastated the Bolivar Peninsula, causing $30 billion in damages.

Brenda Flanagan, who lives on the peninsula, lost her home during Ike.

"Unless you've been through it, you don't know the feeling of not having anything at all," Flanagan recalled.

Texas A&M professor and state climatologist, John Neilsen-Gammon said Hurricane Ida, which made landfall as a category 4, had twice the force of Hurricane Ike.

"That translates into a whole lot more than twice as much damage because most infrastructure is built to withstand a certain amount of wind force and no more than that," Neilsen-Gammon explained.

A storm of Ida's strength is the equivalent of an EF-2 tornado, according to Neilsen-Gammon. It could destroy mobile homes, and other houses could sustain roof damage.

As the storm moves inland, it would still be strong enough to knock over trees.

SEE ALSO: Hurricane Ida evacuees stuck in Texas, unsure about when they'll go home

"Once we get into category 4 territories, we're typically beyond the range most facilities are designed to withstand," Neilsen-Gammon explained. "We'd see much more damage with a category four, than we did with a category two."


About a million people in Louisiana are currently without power due to Hurricane Ida. Officials said it could take a month to get it fully restored.

In the Houston area, officials say a storm of that magnitude could do something similar to the electrical system.

"We're not going to get power back on in a day or two after a significant hurricane hits here," Harris County meteorologist Jeff Lindner explained. "It's going to take an extended period of time for the power and infrastructure to be rebuilt."

SEE ALSO: Hurricane Ida damage to Louisiana's power grid expected to take weeks to repair

Centerpoint Energy told ABC13 it has a hurricane preparedness plan and would partner with other agencies to restore power. However, the company said a category four hurricane could knock out power for possibly months.


There wasn't a lot of time to warn people about Hurricane Ida's strength. It intensified in less than three days to a category four hurricane.

If that happened in southeast Texas, Harris County officials say they have an evacuation plan to move people quickly.

"Ahead of the storm, we have to get the coastal residents out," Lindner explained. "We're going to have to work together, and those inland people who are not at risk from storm surge should plan to shelter in place and do not get onto the freeways."

Lindner said Ida shows the importance of neighbors having their own plan as well. You should have supplies ready now, so it's one less thing to do if there isn't much time to prepare.

SEE ALSO: FEMA calls Ida 'one of the most catastrophic hurricanes' to ever make landfall in the US


Work is underway to protect southeast Texas from future storms. Neilsen-Gammon said there are levees in Texas City, and more homes are on stilts, including Bolivar, where stricter standards have put homes higher.

But we're still years away from other projects. The Sabine to Galveston project is currently underway to protect Beaumont and Port Arthur.

However, work hasn't started on the Coastal Texas Project, which would project hundreds of miles of Texas coast, which is also known as the "Ike Dike."

Officials told ABC13 this week that the study was completed in August and a report will be ready for Congress in a couple of weeks. If approved, it could take upwards of 15 years to complete.

Fifteen years is time that Flanagan fears they don't have on the peninsula.

SEE ALSO: Army Corps. of Engineers moving forward with Ike Dike concept in new study

"Nervous, sad, a little anxiety," Flanagan said.

Harris County is also doing its own flood projects. A few years ago, voters approved a $2.5 billion bond. There are about 180 flood mitigation projects. So far, only about 30 have been completed.

The city of Houston is doing work too. Since Hurricane Harvey, $780 million has been spent on flood mitigation, but the city said it needs another $1 billion.

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