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Hurricane Harvey: The Facts, Damage, Costs, and the Utter Devastation

Written by experts Pat Collins and John Halloran.

2017 was officially a monster year for deadly storms in the United States: In 2017, Hurricane Harvey became the nation’s second-most costly hurricane on record. 

This was the most deadly hurricane Texas had experienced in more than a century. 68 people died; all but three of these deaths were caused by freshwater flooding, while a further 35 people died from related incidents, like car accidents. 

Hurricane Harvey hit Texas as a Category 4 storm on 25th August 2017. According to the National Hurricane Centre, Harvey caused a whopping $125 billion in damages. 

Two locations experienced 5-feet of rain when the wind and rain made landfall. Winds were measured at 130-miles per hour and the storm surge reached up to 10-feet above ground level. 52 tornadoes occurred because of Hurricane Harvey. Downtown Houston was flooded. The metro area of Houston, which is the nation’s fourth-largest city with 6.6 million residents, was flooded.

In the history of the United States, Hurricane Katrina is the only natural disaster to cause more damage than Hurricane Harvey. Record levels of rain were dumped by Harvey, causing extreme flooding. On 1st September 2017 at the peak of the storm, one-third of Houston was underwater. Because of the flooding, 32,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes and move into shelters.

Consider this figure for a moment: 1 trillion gallons of rain! That’s how much rain fell on Houston in just four days! For a record 117 days Hurricane Harvey raged, stalling for 4-days over the coast. Over a 6-day period Harvey made landfall three times.

The massive impact of Hurricane Harvey was due to a combination of factors – the location, the power of the storm, and it’s duration.

Hurricane Harvey and the Damage It Caused

  • Because of Hurricane Harvey, more than 300,000 structures were flooded: 12-months later 8% of displaced people were still unable to return to their homes. 
  • Simultaneously, 500,000 vehicles were flooded.
  • 61 drinking water facilities were rendered inoperable, with 203 notices advising water must be boiled.
  • 40 wastewater treatment facilities were also rendered inoperable, with approximately 150 gallons of overflowing sewage.
  • 266 hazardous materials spills were reported, with 13-million cubic yards of debris requiring removal.
  • Gas prices rose across the country, with Harvey forcing the shutdown of 25% of the region’s oil and gas production. This affected 5% of the output nationwide. And one month after Harvey, activity at refineries remained at multi-year lows.
  • Harvey created a total rainfall hit of 60.58 inches; this was a new record for a single storm in the US. Altogether, 53.4 million acre-feet of water was dumped on Texas, which depressed the earth’s crust. As a result, Houston sank 2-centimeters. Once the waters receded, it rebounded back.

Timeline of Hurricane Harvey


August 25th: Hurricane Harvey reached landfall with 130 mph winds; this occurred at Fulton, near Corpus Christi, Texas. While there was a storm surge in excess of 12-feet above ground level, a peak wind gust of 145-mph was recorded at the Aransas County Airport.

August 26th: Harvey moved on to Houston where it stayed for four days. More than 3-feet of rainfall fell over a large portion of the area. It was reported that a level of flooding like this had a less than 0.1 chance of occurring.

August 29th: Harvey made landfall for a third time, smashing the coastal cities of Beaumont and Port Arthur on the border of Louisiana. The rain fell at a rate of 2 – 3 inches per hour.

August 31st: In Crosby, an Arkema chemical plant ignited. In order to stay inert these chemicals needed refrigeration, so when the cooling equipment was disabled by the storm, temperatures increased and the chemicals ignited. 

September 1st: Hurricane Harvey pelted 12-inches of rain on Nashville in Tennessee.

Global Warming Made Hurricane Harvey Worse

Climatologists agree that its highly likely global warming contributed to the impact of Hurricane Harvey. Studies found that, because of global warming, the amount of rain that fell was 38% higher. This phenomenon occurred for three reasons; the convergence of all three meant that Harvey dropped rain in feet instead of inches.

  • To begin with, because air temperatures in the Gulf region are hotter than in previous years, the air holds more moisture. Because the warmer air holds more moisture, it’s less likely to rain. However, when it does rain the water comes down in buckets.
  • Secondly, Gulf Coast cities are more likely to experience flooding due to rising sea levels. Between the years 1880 and 2015 the average global sea level has risen by 8.9 inches. Michael Mann is a climatologist, and it’s his estimate that Harvey’s storm surge was 6-inches higher than it would have been decades ago.
  • And third, climate change ensures that hurricanes stay in place longer. Storm speeds have decreased by 10% since 1949. This is caused by climate change weakening the jet stream. This means that, high in the atmosphere, there’s a river of wind racing from west to east at speeds of up to 275-miles per hour. As it goes, it undulates north and south. It’s driven by contrasting temperatures between temperate zones and the Arctic; however, because the Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the globe, the jet stream slows down.

MIT Models show that by the year 2035 more hurricanes will be created by global warming. 11% of those will be Category, 3, 4, and 5. In addition, there will be 32 super-extreme storms carrying winds travelling more than 190 miles per hour.

Comparing Damage Caused By Hurricane Harvey with Other Natural Disasters

Allowing for inflation, the damage bill for Hurricane Harvey was $125-billion, which is less than the $160-billion damage bill for Katrina. However, Harvey’s bill is a lot more than another 2017 storm called Hurricane Maria, which incurred a damage bill of $90-billion.

The damage caused by Hurricane Harvey was unusual inasmuch as Harvey hovered over a major metropolitan area a lot longer than most hurricanes. A wider comparison shows the cumulative cost of $495-billion in damages for the five worst hurricanes on record.


The Certified Gold Exchange has suspended all walk in visitors until further notice because of our staff reluctance to be vacinated. Most team members are working from their homes and may meet with clients at their sole discretion.

To learn more about our policies on this matter, please call
1-800-300-0715 Ext. 303. Thank you.


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