On July 26, the "surprise hurricane of 1943" made landfall on the Bolivar Peninsula, bringing winds of 96 miles per hour to an unprepared population. Although there may have been some unpublished ship reports sent to the Houston Weather Bureau, wartime security regulations prohibited radio communication due to German U-boat operations off American coasts. A tropical storm warning predicting winds at 30 to 40 miles per hour had been published in local newspapers the day before, but severely underestimated the strength of the storm.1
The storm moved slowly through the Texas Gulf Coast area during the late morning and throughout the afternoon of July 26th. Wind velocity was measured by the Galveston Weather Bureau at 63 mph before the instruments were disabled by the gale. The wind gauge at the Houston Airport registered winds from 80 to 132 mph. Rainfall in Galveston was 13 to 16 inches and ranged from 5 to 7 inches in other locations.2
Local residents who remembered the 1900 and 1915 hurricanes testified that this 1943 storm was stronger than either of the earlier hurricanes. Nineteen people were killed. Hundreds of people were reported injured, including soldiers and air cadets who were stationed for training at Ellington Field and had to tie planes down during the storm. (Miazza, 1943)
It was estimated that 95 percent of the buildings in Galveston and Texas City experienced damage, but the defense industries in Texas City suffered only minor damage. Information about the storm was suppressed so as not to provide information about the hurricane's effect on the war industries to Axis countries.3
1Fincher, Lew, & Read, Bill. (n.d.). The 1943 "surprise" hurricane. NOAA History: A Science Odyssey.. Retrieved from http://www.history.noaa.gov/stories_tales/surprise.html
2Miazza, J.F. (1943). A report on the hurricane damage of July 27, 1943 in Houston — Galveston — Beaumont area in Texas. Dallas, TX: Fire Companies' Adjustment Bureau, Inc., 4.
3Fincher, Lew, & Read, Bill. (n.d.). The 1943 "surprise" hurricane. NOAA History: A Science Odyssey. Retrieved from http://www.history.noaa.gov/stories_tales/surprise.html