Claudette: The rare tropical storm that made it to West Texas


Photo: NOAA

Should West Texans be concerned with hurricane season?

Tropical Storm Barry heading for the Central Gulf Coast. NHC forecasts Barry to strengthen to a hurricane just before landfall.

As the central Gulf Coast braces for the impacts of Barry, no effects from this system would make it to the Concho Valley. While we deal with typical summer time conditions with mostly sunny skies and highs in the 90’s and 100’s, the central Gulf Coast is expected to receive rainfall accumulations of 15″ to 20″.

San Angelo and the Concho Valley is roughly 320 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. While most tropical storms and hurricanes veer off to the northeast and rapidly weaken after making landfall, some might be wondering if those living in West Texas might be under the gun for widespread heavy rainfall?

The answer is, yes….

While it is very rare a tropical low will maintain hurricane or tropical storm status as it tracks towards the west, recent history gives us a clue on the possibilities of such a scenario.

Remembering Hurricane Claudette in 2003

Track of Claudette as it tracks into Western Texas. Track derived from Observations of a Tropical Storm in West Texas (Lindley et al. 2005)

Hurricane Claudette made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at Port O’Connor, Texas on July 14, 2003. The Category 1 storm caused approximately $180 million in damage with two fatalities in Texas. (Beven 2003)

As Claudette weakened into a tropical depression and eventually into a remnant low, the system continued tracking westward through South Texas and maintained Tropical Storm status as it entered the Big Bend region of Texas.

Widespread heavy rain, wind, and flash flooding was felt across Big Bend, Trans Pecos, and Davis and Guadalupe Mountains as Claudette tracked through Coahuila, Mexico back into the Big Bend region of West Texas. (Lindley, et al. 2005)

According to the National Weather Service – Midland, radar indicated 3″ to 5″ of accumulated rainfall was observed in Terrell County, which borders Crockett county in our viewing area.

Sustained winds were measured at 35 mph from Del Rio to Cotulla, TX with wind gusts up to 55 mph. As the system moved into far west Texas, sustained winds were measured at around 43 mph with gusts up 50 mph at Guadelupe Pass Airport

(Bevers 2003)

Severe thunderstorms with damaging winds were recorded in Loving county with damage to a mobile home. (Lindley et al. 2005)

Most of the effects of Claudette were felt mainly in the rural areas of West Texas. However, if the track and center of circulation was further north, the impacts from this tropical system could have affected more populated cities such as San Angelo, Midland, and Odessa.


Tropical Cyclone – An atmospheric closed circulation rotating counter-clockwise in the Northern hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. Once formed, a tropical cyclone is maintained by the extraction of heat energy from the ocean at high temperature.

Tropical Storm – A tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface wind speeds is 38 mph or less.

Hurricane – A tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface wind speeds is 74 mph or more. The term “hurricane” is used for Northern Hemisphere tropical cyclones. The term “typhoon” is used for Pacific tropical cyclones north of the equator west of the International Dateline

Definitions from National Hurricane Center


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