When you think of devastating weather off the coast, hurricanes are the first thing that probably comes to mind. And you’re not wrong – hurricanes are responsible for millions of dollars in damages every year. Tropical storms and tropical depressions seem tiny in comparison.
But this tropical storm packed a big punch in 1979. The slow-moving Claudette stalled out over Alvin, Texas, dumping a staggering 42 inches of rain on the town and causing over $400 million in damages throughout it several-day trek across the US.
Claudette’s Formation and Path
Claudette was first spotted on July 16th but wasn’t officially named and classified as a tropical storm until July 17th. On July 18th, it dipped into the ‘Tropical Depression’ status before hitting Puerto Rico.
It continued to fluctuate between tropical storm and tropical depression as it made its way to the US coast, never reaching full hurricane status.
On July 23rd it was reclassified as a tropical storm when it hit the Gulf, and on the 24th it started its assault on the US coastline, dumping water.
Claudette drifted over land for several days before dissipating in the Ohio Valley on July 29th, 5 days after it made landfall.
The Damage Done
When Claudette passed over Puerto Rico it was only a tropical depression, but because of how slow-moving the storm was, it dumped a significant amount of water. Some areas saw over 10 inches of rain, and it caused massive flooding and agriculture damage to farms.
One person lost their lives in the flooding, and it’s estimated the damage was about $750,000. When calculated for inflation, that is over $2.5 million today.
Claudette also passed over Hispaniola and Cuba, but there are no records of just how much damage was suffered.
The real damage was done when Claudette stalled over Alvin, Texas. Alvin is a small town of just 24,000 located less than forty minutes south of Houston, Texas. It is only a forty-minute drive to Galveston, Texas from the city center.
When Claudette slowed over Texas, it dumped a ton of rain. Alvin held the record for the highest one-day total of rainfall until 2018 when 49.69 inches fell in Kauai, Hawaii. Streets flooded, those living in low-lying areas had to be evacuated or rescues, but miraculously only one death was reported from drowning.
The total damage that Claudette did was about $400 million, or about $1.4 billion in today’s currency. Homes were completely destroyed in the flooding, farmland was drenched, and power was out to some areas for extended periods of time.
Claudette may just have been a tropical storm, but it was one that residents would not soon forget.