Hurricane Carla Hits Rice, 1961

I hadn’t realized until last week that the 1961-62 school year began with a hurricane, which must have been fairly distracting. The Thresher article makes it sound like not that big of a deal but it sounds bad enough to me:

New Hurricane Carla 9 15 61

My heart strings were tugged, of course, by the sad fate of the Italian cypresses.


Benches from window 2015

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15 Responses to Hurricane Carla Hits Rice, 1961

  1. mjthannisch says:

    For many of us, Carla was a big moment in our lives.

  2. marmer01 says:

    Defining moment for my hometown, Lake Jackson, and the whole Freeport area. I missed it by about two weeks, not having quite been born yet. Bonus: those benches look like some of those from your highly-regarded bench series from a few years ago.

  3. Barney L. McCoy says:

    Carla hit the Texas coast between Corpus Christ and Galveston about 2 weeks before the start of my Junior year at Corpus Christ Ray. My family was visiting my aunts and uncles in San Antonio. Two days before the storm hit, my neighbors and I prepared for the storm and we parked our neighbors boat in our garage. The night before, we drove up and down Ocean Drive and the bayfront watching the waves crashing over the seawall until the water started to cover the street. My mother called and told me to catch the next bus out of town. I told her I needed to stay to protect the house. She called one of our neighbors and made him promise to see that I got on that bus. At 6:00 a.m. the next morning he took me to the bus station and I caught the last bus out of town. By that time, the winds were gusting to 60 mph and water was beginning to cover Downtown. Luckily the bus station was Uptown on the bluff.
    Barney L. McCoy, Hanszen 67.
    PS. That looks like it might be the Biology building.

  4. During Carla, I was enjoying watching birds fly by the window backwards, until my mother discovered I had my nose up to a window during a hurricane, at which time that entertainment ended. I was seven then.

    It was loud for a long time.

    I remember going out in the car with my dad after the storm passed and being stopped before going very far by power lines down across the road. HL&P and SW Bell worked fast to get the roads clear, and you could at least drive around by the next day.

    We only lost power for a few hours at our house in Spring Valley, but a few blocks in any direction folks were without power or water for days. We also had one of the rare working phones, and our little community water system continued to work. So, pretty soon our neighborhood had a parade of folks from around the west side of town, coming to get water, and to borrow a phone to make a collect call to relatives to report on their condition.

    I was never sure if the damage in our area was from the hurricane winds, or if there was a spinoff tornado, or both. The damage was uneven. We lost just a few shingles, but a couple of blocks over, trees were torn up and smashed into roofs.

    It was a pretty exciting time in my childhood.

  5. mjthannisch says:

    We were living in Windsor Village (SW Houston). I was five, my Dad was running Coastwise for Lykes Bros., so I I had to help my mom tape windows. Doc Garza from across the street tied down the garage doors, and we hunkered down. Of course both bath tubs were filled so as to have washing and flushing water. We watched the storm come in to Glaveston on the news, and had electricity, phone and gas the whole storm. (not true during Ike. The difference in 1961, no trees in Windsor Village. During Ike, lots of trees). The calm before the storm was just like every hurricane I have been through since, very eery. The storm it self was scary, and we had to repair the roof afterwards.

    What impressed me most though was the destruction we saw in Freeport and Galveston, and the sheer amount of trash brought up by the storm.

  6. Buddy Herz '61 says:

    I graduated from Rice June,1961 and was scheduled to go to Austin to register for classes at UT Law School on a certain Monday; however, Carla hit on Sunday night. Everything in Galveston was flooded and, at the time, Galveston’s causeway had a drawbridge which had been raised—and could not be lowered because of damage from the storm. I could not get off the Island until Wednesday. No electricity when I left and I was unable to get out of the house until I left for Austin. The tornadoes did the most damage, however. One ripped up houses about a block away from my home, killing one resident. The house next door lost its roof, but other than the inconvenience of no electricity, hence no television, my home and family were safe.

    • mjthannisch says:

      Help me. Was the old cause way with the drawbridge the one currently with the train tracks or was it another one?

      • Buddy Herz '61 says:

        The oldest causeway is the one with the train tracks. If you look at it closely you will see that one half of the old causeway was for vehicular traffic and one half for train traffic.Later the present causeway was built with a drawbridge. Some time later (probably in the late 60s or early 70s), the drawbridge was deleted from the present causeway and the entire portion where the drawbridge had been was elevated so that there was no need for a drawbridge. Much later (either in the 90s or early 2000s) the causeway was widened and the top of the causeway may have been elevated a bit more.

        If you need any more info on Galveston, please call me. I’ve lived here all my life. My phone number is listed at home and at my law office.

        • mjthannisch says:

          Thank you very much. I thought that that was what I remembered, but I was also quite young. But in my mind I have always thought of the train causway being Old Galveston Road.

  7. marmer01 says:

    Lots of hurricane stories. Like I said, Carla tore up the Brazosport area pretty badly, especially with tornadoes. At Dow Chemical in Freeport, they lost HL&P power and the plants started flooding. Someone got the idea to start up the power plant — they filled up the boilers with water from a fire truck and used the suction from 70 mph wind blowing across the top of the stack to give the boilers enough draft to light. Soon they had steam, then electrical power, and were able to start pumping. A tornado caused enough damage to Nicholas Clayton’s Ursuline Academy in Galveston that the trustees decided to demolish it — a deeply controversial decision which spawned the historical preservation movement in Galveston. (you should Google it, it was the most spectacular High Victorian building in Texas.)

    During Ike, Alice Pratt Brown Hall had little damage thanks to the quick thinking of the overnight custodial team, who vacuumed water off the floor that was being forced under the doors by wind. They filled trash bags with the water and made “water bags” like sandbags to bolster the doors and keep the water out. We lost about four windows, probably to roof gravel, and unfortunately one practice piano was lost due to water damage, and one office was pretty well soaked. We bagged the computer so that was good.

    • Buddy Herz '61 says:

      Ursuline Convent was two blocks on the other side of my home from the tornado damage. It was a magnificent building with potmarks from the cannon fire during the Civil War’s Battle of Galveston . Should and coulda been saved—and woulda if the Galveston Historical Society had been established/involved. Don’t remember whether it was a tornado or Carla, but think it was just hurricane damage.

      • marmer01 says:

        There was tornado damage to gables and one large third-floor-ish window. Actually, in comparing rare photographs, the building fared much worse in the 1900 storm. As I said, its demolition was a decision that was quite controversial at the time. I suspect that it could have been saved but the school administration chose to demolish and rebuild. In seeing the new school, (a mid-century modern building by R.R. Rapp) it may well have been that they built new for what it would have cost to repair the old, and got something that needs of the time better. To be honest, the idea of historic buildings being a public amenity was probably at its lowest ebb in Galveston at that time. The loss of the Ursuline Academy provided the impetus for nascent preservation efforts. For what it’s worth, Galveston’s other spectacular Clayton building at the UT Medical School was very nearly demolished, too, in the 1970s.

  8. Suzy Casey (SLLS) says:

    I was a senior, living at home just two blocks from the stadium. All the ditches filled up with water and we were inundated with crayfish, which my mother cooked for dinner. We knew to open the windows on the lee side of the house and the water drained well, too, so all we suffered was litter from tree branches and minor flooding. I walked to class every day and did so as soon as the campus reopened. Galveston took the brunt of the storm, and Carla had diminished somewhat by the time she had traveled the 50 miles inland. The Rice custodians and administrators did a great job of having “business as usual” quite quickly after the “event.”

  9. Francis Eugene "Gene" PRATT, Institute Class of '56 says:

    Let me know when y’all get around to “Alicia”:
    That’s when my stories, varnished and unvarnished, occurred.

  10. Matt Noall says:

    I missed this one, moving to Houston the year after. The other kids in the neighborhood filled me in with lots of stories. It did not sound like much fun.

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