Mighty Hurricane Carla battered the Texas Gulf Coast in 1961

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See what the aftermath of Hurricane Carla looked like along Texas coast…

On Sept. 11, 1961 Hurricane Carla hit the Texas Gulf Coast. It was the worst hurricane to hit the coast since the devastating 1900 storm that killed thousands in Galveston.

Carla, and its mighty Category 4 wallop, slammed into the coast near Port Lavaca packing winds of nearly 170 miles per hour, with up to 18 tornadoes spawned by the storm causing additional havoc.

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Though it entered Texas roughly halfway between Corpus Christi and Galveston, the island still suffered damages. According to the National Weather Service the hurricane’s storm surge had a very serious impact, rising ten feet above normal along the coast. The surge was as high as 22 feet at Port O’Connor.

Ahead of the hurricane nearly half a million people in the path of the hurricane were evacuated from the low-lying coastal areas in Texas up to southwestern Louisiana. Those heartier Texans who previously might have been apt to stick around and ride out the storm instead heeded warnings and left their homes.

“People left Corpus Christi who never left before,” John Stallings of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times told the Associated Press that week.

The largest evacuation up to that point in history helped keep the death toll down to just 46, according to the National Weather Service’s report on Carla.

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During Hurricane Carla, young newsman and native Texan Dan Rather at KHOU-TV made his mark on the national media scene with his unwavering coverage of the hurricane from Galveston Island.

The station set up inside the weather bureau in Galveston ahead of the storm. When Carla hit just below the island, Rather and his team were able to report directly from the scene while other Houston outlets were sealed off from Galveston. CBS News in New York plugged into Rather’s coverage and ran it nationally.

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Carla’s remnants meandered up to Austin and Dallas and continued into the Midwest United States before finally dissipating on Sept. 17, 1961.

By the time it was done, Carla cost around $408 million in damages to Texas alone. Today, its damages would have easily exceeded more than $2 billion.

In 2017 Hurricane Harvey became the worst hurricane to hit Texas since Carla.

Craig Hlavaty covers Houston history and pop-culture. Read him on our breaking news site, Chron.com, and on our subscriber site, HoustonChronicle.com. | craig.hlavaty@chron.com