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Hurricane Allen


Allen formed 1100 miles east of Barbados on August 1. The tropical cyclone then moved westward through the Atlantic and became Hurricane Allen on August 3, when about 120 miles east of Barbados. The storm became the strongest hurricane (Category 5) ever in the Caribbean on the 7th, with sustained winds of 185 mph and higher gusts. At this time, Allen's central pressure was 26.55 inches (899 Mb).

Allen began to weaken as it entered the Gulf of Mexico on August 8, as it moved west-northwest. Dry air began to intrude into the system which caused weakening, and this continued as the storm crawled toward Brownsville. Allen made landfall as a category 3 hurricane near Port Mansfield on August 10. Daily rainfall records were set for Corpus Christi on the 9th and 10th (6.34 inches and 6.93 inches, respectively), which led to a new rainfall record for the month of August (14.39 inches). Daily rainfall records were also set on August 10 in Victoria (2.51 inches) and Laredo (3.92 inches). Flooding was a great problem. Ten to fifteen inch rains produced widespread flooding, the most critical being in the Kingsville area.

The highest wind gust reported was from Port Mansfield, registering 138 mph. At the Corpus Christi Airport, the highest sustained wind was 55 mph and the highest wind gust 92 mph, both occurring on August 10. Peak wind gusts at Port Aransas and Aransas Pass were between 105 and 110 mph.

NOAA Satellite

As the eye nears Texas on August 8, 1980.

Image courtesy of NOAA.


Storm surges reached 12 feet at Port Mansfield, and between 7 and 9 feet in the Coastal Bend. The Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi estimated a surge of 9 feet. Padre Island was cut through in 68 places, and dunes previously on the island were leveled. Most buildings on South Padre Island were destroyed except the Champion Club, its oldest building. Purdy's pier was destroyed. Also, 90 percent of the structures at Port Mansfield had major damage, while North Beach had 75 percent of its structures suffer major damage. In Corpus Christi, most of the damage was done to signs, trees, fences, shingles off roofs, and broken windows. Many boats in the downtown marina suffered major damage, and many were sunk tied at the docks. Finally, wind damage was also reported in the communities of Norias and Rachal, especially just before and after the eye of Allen passed.

Tornadoes damaged 25 homes in Penita and injured 3 in San Antonio. A total of 34 tornadoes were known to have touched down across South Texas. Tornadoes reported to the National Weather Service in Corpus Christi included the communities of: Norias in Kenedy County, Orangedale in Bee County, Mathis in San Patricio County, and Port Aransas, Corpus Christi and Bishop in Nueces County. Although damage was reported with some of these twisters, no deaths or injuries were reported from the tornadoes. Many funnel clouds were also sighted during Allen.

About 300,000 evacuated. Seven died in Texas and 17 in Louisiana; most in Louisiana died as a helicopter evacuating them from an offshore platform crashed. Two were reported dead in Corpus Christi, while deciding to ride the storm out at North Beach. Damages totaled $1 billion with $40 million on South Padre Island and Port Isabel. Rains from Allen relieved a serious drought in southern Texas.

Source: NOAA.


Share Your Memories!

What do you remember about Hurricane Allen? Have you any compelling stories to share? Share your stories with the world! (We print the best stories right here!)

Your Memories Shared!

"I lived in port Mansfield when Allen came in, although we were ordered to leave port on the 8th of August, the return was the worst I had ever experienced. It was a town not recognized by the people who lived there. Houses totally gone, to shells just standing - People losing everything they owned. Insurance was a joke, because if you had wind insurance they would say your damage was caused by water, and vise-a-versa. Red Cross stepped in and provide food and shelter. I lost everything we owned 2 businesses and our home, with no help."


"I remember this storm vividly. I was 5 year old and living in Brownville, TX. I can remember my dad and some of the neighbors boarding up each other's houses. I was very excited about the prospect of a huge storm confining us to our home as if we were camping within our walls. I was too young to realize the true danger of the storm. On the night of the storm I can remember our family sleeping in sleeping bags in the hallway of our home. The power was out, the wind was moaning, boards on the windows were rattling, and all I could think about was how exciting it was to have my own flashlight. Night gave way to morning and the winds had subsided somewhat. Dad ventured outside, but would not let me follow despite my pleading. I remember thinking he was very brave. When he returned he gave us a report of what it was like and I hung on every word. Later in the day we were allowed to go outside and explore. Trees were uprooted, limbs were scattered around the yard, the resaca was really full, and I was in heaven. What a pleasure it was to climb through the canopies of these tall trees as they lay on the ground. We went to the beach a few days later to survey the dammage and were impressed with the storm's ability to wash away parts of the road and parts of the island. Hurricane Allan was quite an event. It stimulated my lifelong interest in storms and provided me and my family with a fond memory. It's ironic how this same storm had a complete opposite impact on other families not so far away."


"I lived in Kingsville at the time and it was a lot of damage. We lost all of our trees and my fathers business had 18" of standing water in his store."


" I Had just moved from Calfornia in June of that year to live with my mom and step father. I was going to be starting High School the End of August. We lived on South Pardre Island.

My Step dad was charter Boat Captain. I remember packing all our important belongings and loading them on the boat (31 foot Criss Craft). We towed our 20 foot shamrock behind. We headed up the Bay to Port Aransas. We pulled to shore where I took a rope and went about 20 feet up a bank to tie off around a big tree. then we tied off to big post in the water and waited for the storm. At one point during the storm the tied had rose about 15 feet. We were there for a couple of days. We did not suffer any damage. The worst that happened was that I got a deep sea fish hook stuck up my nose. My step father had them hanging down from a hook by the Table as I went to sit down the boat rocked and the hooks sweng out and went up my nose and got stuck in the cartlige. My steo father had to use the pliers to pull it out. At one point he thought he was going to have to take me to the Doctor to get it out but he was finally able to pull it out.

After the storm was over we headed back to South Padre Island. On way back we passed a lot of boats that had sunk at their docks.

The Condo complex we lived in (South Padre Marina) suffered a lot of damage. Boats were all over the place a lot of them were up on land. Almost all the storage lockers along the boat slips were destoryed. When we went into our condo which was on the third floor we were relived that the only damage we suffered was some water had came through the slidding glass doors and got the carpet pretty wet. As we looked out our sliddig doors we looked right into the condo next to ours where the wall had been completly tore off. Our Cars which we left were ruined by the salt water that had risen up over the Island."

--Morris Bruce

"I recall it well. I had been called as a minister of Music and Youth to a local church in San Benito (about 25 miles inland from Brownsville), and I was traveling there as the valley was being evacuated. It was bumper to bumper coming out for I don't know how long (almost the whole way) from Houston. I seemed to be the only embicile going the wrong way.
When I approached the valley (after going through Corpus), I could see the storm out over the water. It was an awesome sight. There was clear sky and sunlight over my head, but out over the water was a dark black wall as high as I could see, which was very ominous looking.
I felt blessed that the storm stalled off he coast for almost the entire night, giving me time to get to my destination. The storm weakened significantly as it swirled just beyond the coastline. The next morning it came ashore, and it was an impressive display of power. I must say that I actually (perhaps foolishly) enjoyed going outside for a few moments to experience the winds firsthand. I would try to see how far I could lean into the wind without falling on my face. There were lawn chairs, garbage cans, branches, parts of roofs, and many other things flying through the air. I watched the fence in the back yard straining against the wind, and it appeared to breathe as it was whipped by the gusts. I felt very secure, however, since the storm had weakened some and I was in a well built brick house.
Had the storm come ashore with its full fury, I may not have been so excited to see what it was like to ride out a hurricane. Seeing the results of the weakened storm, I think everyone that went through that storm should count their blessings, knowing that for some reason that storm stalled. It could have been much more devastating."

--J Ogle

"I remember being in Barbados when Hurricane Allen hit. The Carribean Sea looked like the Atlantic Ocean. The tops of the palm trees were touching the ground. During the night, a tree came crashing through the window. This is when we all went into the hallway to spend the rest of the night. During the eye of the Hurricane, we set out on the balcony and sang Christmas carols. I think we were all letting out some nervous energy. We thought that the worst was over. It was then that the worst of the storm hit. It is an experience I will never forget!"

--Kim Peters

"I was living in Houston Texas in 1980. We were getting ready to go to Mexico for a family vacation when we heard about this big hurricane heading our way. They told us to get our homes boarded up and get ready to move to higher ground. We only lived 35 miles from Galvestine. So my father said we might as well go on our vacation to Mexico since the hurricane was forecast to hit farther north than where we were going BIG MISTAKE. We headed for the airport and went to Mexico My mothers cousins husband picked us up and the next morning. We headed down the road not paying attention that Hurricane Allen was heading our way. My father mother sister and brother were all in the car when we ran into bad weather and poor visibility. It was so bad that we got into a fatal car accident, which ended the life of my 11 year old brother Stevie. We were all almost killed they had to find out a way to get us out of Mexico and back to the States we were all in really bad shape. My dad got a hold of his boss in Texas who knew someone who had a small plane. They flew us out and back to Hermann Hospital in Houston. My reason for writing this is to let people know how unpredictable hurricanes are and not to venture to far from home. Our house was not touched."


"I was in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, during this hurricane with a friend of mine who was a missionary. With the media being as poor as it was in this third-world country, we had no idea this storm would be so bad.

Thankfully, we were in a very stable home. I can still remember the palm trees being uprooted, and unripe avacados dropping from trees to the pavement. They sounds like blocks of wood as they broke open. I will also never forget how quickly the temperature dropped.

We found out the next day the amount of damage that had been done, most of which occurred in the lower and poorer areas. Many Haitian homes were made of cinder blocks, with corrugated metal roofs. There were numerous reports of these roofs being blown off and sent sent flying down the streets like deadly Frisbees. More than a few people were hit, and we heard some died. There was also bad flooding.

Two days after the storm, my wife called from the US. She was frantic, as the mainland was just beginning to understand as the devastation. At first, I didn't get why the whole thing was such a big deal.

As the years pass, I have told quite a few people about being in the Carribean's worst storm."

--Craig from Racine

"When Hurricane Allen hit Corpus Christi I lived in an apartment complex across the street from the bay that was flanked on its rear side by the big cemetery. My apartment faced an interior courtyard at the rear of the complex. I was in my mid twenties with 3 babies ages 1 month, 1-1/2 yrs, and 3 yrs. Yes, I was scared! My husband (at the time) laughed at the idea that we should probably evacuate. At one point during the storm I looked out into the square courtyard and saw a crumpled up sheet of corrugated metal fly around the corner of the building and then spin in mid air in the center of the courtyard for a LONG time! After the storm passed and the damaged was assessed we discovered that our 2nd floor balcony was simply GONE, the lava rock facing on the exterior apartment wall had been STRIPPED away and, of course, the roofing was shot. Well, guess what. Now I live in Lake Charles, Louisiana and hurricane LILY is headed strait this way. I am out of here in the morning! :)"


"I was on board the US Navy Ship USS Blakely during this storm. We were in port at Guantanomo Bay, Cuba and got the call to leave port. It was August 5th, my birthday. We went to sea with several other ships, one of which was from Argentina. They completely lost power while riding out the storm.

I recall making a trip to the bridge to view the storm activity. As we crested a wave I looked into the trough of the next wave and remember thinking we might not ever come out of that hole. The swells were 45 feet high and waves were crashing over the top of the flying bridge. No one was allowed above decks. Everything was tied down as were several people so they wouldn't go flying out of their bunks! This was one of the most interesting and exciting days of my life."


"Was working for a home improvement chain that was in business at the time in Texas and was commissioned to drive a load of plywood from San Antonio to the Corpus Christi store due to them running out. As I entered the store parking lot and was expecting to dock and leave off the load, the truck was attacked by panicked Corpus residents and genrally looted of the plywood. No money ever changed hands and the load was written off to goodwill. It took 5 hours to get back to SA on a bumper to bumper I-37- a trip that normally took 2.5 hours back then."


"I was 13 and at sea in the Dry Tortugas during Hurricane Allen's path to the Gulf of Mexico. I was on a 10 day fishing trip with my dad and his crew and the seas were too rough to track back to Key West by the time we got warning of Allen. We anchored between islands at Fort Jefferson with several other boats both fishing and leisure from all over the country. I can recall my dad once saying "we are playing with our lives out here". We lost one large anchor due to the high winds causing our boat to drift and broke the anchor chains. I will never forget this."


"Born and raised in Corpus Christi and having to go through several hurricanes in the past, I do remember this one in particular. My Aunt who still lives in Corpus Christi, lives in North Beach. My grandmother and aunt decided to ride the storm in the house. Allen hit so fierce that the water rose so quickly they didn't have time to evacuate. They were both standing on furniture and my grandmother described the water being slowly rising to her chin. They only had a foot to breath and the water level must have been at least 10 feet high. She swore she saw death lerking about. My aunts husband swam out of the house and onto the bridge. He managed to get past the 130 m.p.h. pounding winds and inched his way over the bridge to get help. The rescue team used ropes to hoist both my aunt and grandmother out. When they returned a few days later, the house had 2-3 inches of fish, sand and sea weed. There lives had been spared that day."


"I was 5 and living in Portland, TX (small town outside of Corpus Christi, TX) when Allen hit. I remember it vividly, as my father had boarded up our windows (we were the only ones in our neighborhood not to evacuate) and I couldn't see out. Every few hours, my father would lift my sister and I up to see out the tiny peep-holes that he had drilled through the plywood. It also hit on a Saturday, and my favorite cartoon (Tarzan) kept being interrupted by weather reports. I kept asking ym parents why my show kept being pre-empted by this stupid storm. Only several years later did I learn how devastating of a storm it really was."


"Since I was born the day before in Brownsville, my Mom decided to nickname me after the storm, one which has stuck to this day. "


"My best friend and I lived in a trailer just north of Kingsville. We both took off before the storm hit. When we came back, the trailer had it's roof torn off everywhere but underneath the hold-downs we'd strapped to the trailer. Our clothes and belongings were spread out all over the field to the west -- we just left them there. All the fields were flooded for a week after the storm. There was a lot of standing water. The mosquitoes were so bad after that you couldn't go out without long-sleeve shirts and a bandana around your collar. The stores were selling cans of "Off!" for $5 and $10 each. We'd heard stories about animals dropping dead on the King Ranch because of the mosquitoes. I have nothing in my possession that's from before this storm because I lost everything that I didn't have in my car -- all my high school yearbooks, pictures, stereo, clothes --- all gone. "


"My sister and I had just moved to the States from South America. We were happy to be away from the earthquakes that were so common in our country. Lo and behold we are welcomed by Hurricane Allen. At that time we worked in a nursing home in weslaco. Because of the seriousness of the situation, the manager wanted to take us to Brownsville to help in another nursing home in Brownsville. After checking the news again, she decided it was too dangerous for us to go there. She decided to go herself and be with the staff while the hurricane hit Brownsville. The report was that the nursing home was left almost intact, though the windows were broken. The residents had been moved to the halls away from the windows.

Buildings around it were destroyed and I remember hearing a lady who came back to see her house. The house with its foundation was gone a few blocks away. It was an experience hard to forget, we were all together helping one another. The next day we went outside to our garden and found baby birds who had survived famous hurricane Allen. We still have the pictures and wonder how they survived such strong winds!"

--The sisters

"I was an 11-year old kid from Dallas who had gone to South Padre with my 4 siblings and my mom for a 2-week vacation. I personally have a total of 16 trips to Padre to claim. After 2 days we were forced to evacuate along with the entire island. I thought it was not a big deal and we could return to our vacation at the San Gria Condominiums in a few days at the most. We evacuated and moved inland 25 miles to a holiday inn where we all shared the last room.

In retrospect, we should have moved in further but we had never been through anything like this and underestimated the power of the storm (thinking we could actually return to our vacation). Hours before the worst of the storm passed it was apparent that the vacation was long gone as was S. Padre Island. For almost 72 hours I experienced the most toorential rain and wind I had ever seen. I think the storm slowed down a great deal upon landfall and left flooding rains in the Valley. Almost 25 years later I will never forget the storm nor will I forget the "old" South Padre Island which was much smaller, more quaint, and more beautiful than it is today.

Back then it was generally only a tourist spot for some Texans and was a gem that was largely untouched. I still love the island but the massive growth and busy spring breakers and summer tourists from all over the country have changed the landscape much the way Allen did. I still will never forget the storm which was without doubt the worst I have ever seen.

Looking back, I do have fond memories of being with all of my brothers and sisters in a hotel room only lit by candles and scattered with board games. When we went back the next year (1981 Labor Day), it was still unrecognizable. I can only hope South Padre never again takes a hit like that again, it was truly incredible."

--Greg Marquess, Dallas

"I was 10 when this hit and living in Port Isabel. We got a motel room in McAllen, as did many people from our area. The impact was pretty heavy in McAllen as well, and my parents wouldn't let us outside the room (me and two older siblings).

I remember coming back home, and because our house was next to the bay, the Guard (not sure if it was National Guard or Texas Guard) weren't allowing access to the area. We had to go to city hall and get a card saying we had permission to go to our neighborhood. When we got to the house, it was a mess.

Several feet of water, trees fallen over and an old car we left on the side of the street was now in our front yard. Took several months to rebuild the house. We stayed with relatives in Laguna Vista who had no damage. But the oddest thing was watching the CBS evening news at their house the day we got back into town and seeing my house on TV.

I remember my parents, despite a huge loss, remaining perfectly calm.

They probably were devastated though because years of memories and keepsakes were no doubt ruined in the storm. They said we had insurance to rebuild, and I remember rebuilding (and redecorating) being fun, but that huricane was super scray back then."


"I was vacationing at Isla Mujeres off the coast of Cancun, Mexico. My husband at the time was suffering from a kidney stone. The first we knew of Allen was when the Cuban Navy docked and there were no ferries to the mainland. We received a telegram from the States to "get out". My husband was in the clinic on the beach and we were to be transported to the Navy hospital on higher ground. We couldn't leave because one of the residents was having a baby. We waited until Allen was born and then headed to the hospital. Water was coming over the cliff (maybe about the size of a 7 story bldg).

They taped the windows and communications were cut off. They had a weather radio but the news was in Spanish - we spoke and understood very little of the Spanish language. The hospital turned out to be the shelter for the island. The staff treated us really well and kept us calm. The day after the storm, water was rushing from the windward side of the island to the channel.

The sky was turquoise - just beautiful. We were told that the eye of the storm was gaining speed 50 miles out and if it had hit us directly the island would have been wiped out. I don't ever want to be caught on an island during a hurricane ever again."


"My husband and I were vacationing at Couples resort in Ocho Rios Jamaica when the hurricane hit. The storm reached its worst during the night hours. We were moved out of our beach facing rooms and put up in the hallways on chaise lounges. Our room was one story up, the first floor being a beach front entrance. During the height of the storm rather large waves were battering the front of our building. A very large wave hit us causing the building to shudder. This wave apparently broke through the beach floor entrance with such force that it entered through that entrance, went up about 10 steps and poured down the hallway where we were camped out. Imagine laying there and seeing the wave coming down the hallway. Fortunately we were only wet by the wave and it receeded back down the hall and stairs.

Now we had an open doorway through which the sea kept coming in. We notified hotel management and they sent a maintenance man to shore up the door. He worked for quite a while hammering boards across the doorway to hold the door closed. We were then struck by another very hard wave and the door came off its hinges flying back toward the stairs pushing the maintanance man back with it. My husband was at the top of the stairs watching the activity. The wave came back against the stairs carrying the man with it slamming him hard into the stairs and then, started to receed pulling the maintenance man with it. My husband ran down the stairs and grabbed the worker and pulled him back towards the stairs. He could see by the bones protruding from the man's legs that both of his legs were broken from the impact. He managed to get him about halfway up the stairs when another wave entered filling the stairwell and then receeding and this time pulling my husband and the worker out to sea. My husband locked his arm around the railing on the stair and held on until help came from some of the other men and hotel staff who had arrived on the scene.

Needless to say, it was a life threatening time and we were all very grateful to have survived intact. In the aftermath of the storm Ocho Rios was cut off from Montego Bay for several days before the road was opened and passable. We were confined to the resort grounds without any power. Guests were given candles to light their way in the evenings. We felt at times that although the building was sparred by the storm, we were surley going to burn down because of all of the open flames around due to the candles. By weeks end, we were able to leave the resort and head for home carring the memory of a vacation that we are never to forget. "


"I was caught in this hurricane when I was having the last holiday before we became parents for the first time. We had only been on the Island of St Lucia for just under a week when it arrived, We offered to share our bedroom with another couple and despite my extended tum they took the mattress and we had the base! It lasted about 12 hours and it felt like a nver-ending airplane journey through turbulence . The eye of the storm was amazing allowing us to step out to an eerie silence broken only by the sound of huge tree frogs.

Since then I have had an insatialble curiosity for hurricanes and it is one of my strongest desires to be a storm chaser, by the way my beautiful daughter breezed in 4 months later. Coincidently we named her LECIA. "


"My husband and I had stored our stuff in an out building behind my mother in laws house in Bishop Tx just 6 miles north of kingsville. We were moving into a new house and it wasn't ready yet. We were staying at my mothers house in Kingsville and decided not to evacuate. I have never seen so much rain at one time as I did with this storm. We lost all our belongings due to the flooding. The out building our stuff was stored in was full of standing water. My mothers neighbor had just put on a new roof and it didn't have time to set and we watched it go shingle by shingle. We didn't have cell phones back then so it was a long time before we could call others to let them know we were ok. All in all it was an experience I will never forget and I never make light of a storm in the gulf. "


"I was a Navy Pilot stationed at NAS Kingsville, Texas in the summer of 1980. We were required to evacuate Navy jets from Kingsville to Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. I packaged and wrapped my belongings in my apartment, and placed plastic over all of them. When I returned to Kingsville after the storm, I found that nearly 1/3 of the apartments in the complex of over 100, were totally destroyed. Approximately 1/3 were damaged somewhat, and 1/3 had no damage. I was fortunate, as my apartment was untouched. In any event, I remember it well, and I always felt sympathy for those who lost loved ones or property from the storm."

--Doug Martin/Kansas

"Hurricane Allen struck on my 14th birthday. My family was living in Edinburg, Texas at the time. A lot of my family still lives there. The whole family had to evacuate our homes and move to higher grounds. In this case, it was my Uncle Neil's house. There were about 16 of us or so including my grandparents (I think both sets were there). It was exciting as a 14 year old, but scary too. We slept on cots and I think that we even lost power. We weren't sure if our house would be there when we got home.

Dad put all the furniture up on cynder blocks and we all prayed. When we came home we saw all of the homes in the area flooded. It was devastating. We got to our house and our house was spared. Everything in the garage was floating. It came within an inch or so of entering our house. All the homes around us were under water. We were thrilled of course, but then it was time to help the neighbors. We sucked out water from our neighbors houses with dad's shop vac.

The boys and I played out in the water filled streets, catching frogs and getting dirty. Someone even had a conoe. It was a time that I will never forget. I don't want to go through another one of those as an adult with children. It would be far scarier than it was then."




Here is the track Hurricane Allen took between August 1 and 14, 1980.

Courtesy of NOAA

Date(s): August 4-11, 1980

Location: Caribbean and Texas

Deaths: 272


Damage: $1B

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