In June, powerful storms often form in Gulf of Mexico and strike Texas

a map showing the path of Hurricane Audrey

This map shows the path and the growing intensity of Hurricane Audrey, a storm that formed in the Gulf of Mexico and struck the Texas coast in 1957. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Hurricane season begins June 1 and Texans should beware, says a researcher with 35 years of marine experience. Powerful storms tend to form in the Gulf of Mexico very early in the season and frequently strike the state’s coastline with little warning.

Storms that form in the Gulf also tend to gain both speed and strength as they near landfall, says William Merrell, holder of the George P. Mitchell ’40 Chair in Marine Sciences at Texas A&M University’s Galveston campus.

The storms generally occur earlier in the hurricane season than Atlantic hurricanes, Merrell says. June is the busiest month on record for Gulf-originated storms making landfall in Texas while Atlantic hurricanes peak in September.

As a result, Gulf storms often catch Texans by surprise. “We are caught by surprise, time and time again, when storms form early in the season,” he says.

Merrell says the upper Texas coast has experienced major hurricanes that made landfall within 72 hours after reaching hurricane status in the Gulf of Mexico. The most noteworthy one was Hurricane Humberto, which formed in September 2007 with almost no warning and achieved hurricane status while over the Bolivar Peninsula.

Two other destructive June Gulf-formed storms were Audrey in 1957 and tropical storm Allison in 2001.

More at the Galveston campus.