Hurricane Harvey

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Hurricane Harvey
Category 4 major hurricane (SSHWS/NWS)
Harvey 2017-08-25 2231Z.png
Hurricane Harvey near peak intensity prior to landfall in southern Texas on August 25
FormedAugust 17, 2017 (2017-08-17)
DissipatedSeptember 2, 2017 (2017-09-02)
( Extratropical after September 1)
Highest winds 1-minute sustained:130 mph (215 km/h)
Lowest pressure937 mbar (hPa); 27.67 inHg
Fatalities68 direct, 39 indirect
Damage$125 billion (2017 USD)
(Tied as costliest tropical cyclone on record)
Areas affected Windward Islands, Suriname, Guyana, Nicaragua, Honduras, Belize, Cayman Islands, Yucatán Peninsula, Southern and Eastern United States (especially Texas, Louisiana)
Part of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season

Hurricane Harvey of 2017 is tied with 2005's Hurricane Katrina as the costliest tropical cyclone on record, inflicting $125 billion in damage, primarily from catastrophic rainfall-triggered flooding in the Houston metropolitan area and Southeast Texas. [1] It was the first major hurricane [nb 1] to make landfall in the United States since Wilma in 2005, ending a record 12-year span in which no hurricanes made landfall at the intensity of a major hurricane throughout the country. [2] In a four-day period, many areas received more than 40 inches (1,000 mm) of rain as the system slowly meandered over eastern Texas and adjacent waters, causing unprecedented flooding. With peak accumulations of 60.58 in (1,539 mm), in Nederland, Texas, Harvey was the wettest tropical cyclone on record in the United States. The resulting floods inundated hundreds of thousands of homes, which displaced more than 30,000 people and prompted more than 17,000 rescues.

Hurricane Katrina Category 5 Atlantic hurricane in 2005

Hurricane Katrina was an extremely destructive and deadly Category 5 hurricane that made landfall on Florida and Louisiana in August 2005, causing catastrophic damage; particularly in the city of New Orleans and the surrounding areas. Subsequent flooding, caused largely as a result of fatal engineering flaws in the flood protection system known as levees around the city of New Orleans, precipitated most of the loss of lives. The storm was the third major hurricane of the record-breaking 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, as well as the fourth-most intense Atlantic hurricane on record to make landfall in the contiguous United States, behind only the 1935 Labor Day hurricane, Hurricane Camille in 1969, and Hurricane Michael in 2018.

Tropical cyclone Is a rotating storm system

A tropical cyclone is a rapidly rotating storm system characterized by a low-pressure center, a closed low-level atmospheric circulation, strong winds, and a spiral arrangement of thunderstorms that produce heavy rain. Depending on its location and strength, a tropical cyclone is referred to by different names, including hurricane, typhoon, tropical storm, cyclonic storm, tropical depression, and simply cyclone. A hurricane is a tropical cyclone that occurs in the Atlantic Ocean and northeastern Pacific Ocean, and a typhoon occurs in the northwestern Pacific Ocean; in the south Pacific or Indian Ocean, comparable storms are referred to simply as "tropical cyclones" or "severe cyclonic storms".

Greater Houston Metropolitan area in Texas, United States

Houston–The Woodlands–Sugar Land is the fifth-most populous metropolitan statistical area (MSA) in the United States, encompassing nine counties along the Gulf Coast in southeastern Texas. With a population of 6,997,384 people, as of 2018 census estimates, the MSA is the second-most populous in Texas after the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex. Colloquially referred to as Greater Houston, the 10,000-square-mile (26,000 km2) region centers on Harris County, the third-most populous county in the nation, which contains the city of Houston—the largest economic and cultural center of the South—with a population of 2.3 million. Greater Houston is part of the Texas Triangle megaregion along with the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex, Greater Austin, and Greater San Antonio.


The eighth named storm, third hurricane, and first major hurricane of the extremely active 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, Harvey developed from a tropical wave to the east of the Lesser Antilles, reaching tropical storm status on August 17. [3] The storm crossed through the Windward Islands on the following day, making landfall on the southern end of Barbados and a second landfall on Saint Vincent. Upon entering the Caribbean Sea, Harvey began to weaken due to moderate wind shear, and degenerated into a tropical wave north of Colombia, late on August 19. [4] The remnants were monitored for regeneration as it continued west-northwestward across the Caribbean and the Yucatán Peninsula, before redeveloping over the Bay of Campeche on August 23. [5] Harvey then began to rapidly intensify on August 24, regaining tropical storm status and becoming a hurricane later that day. [6] While the storm moved generally northwest, Harvey's intensification phase stalled slightly overnight from August 24–25; however, Harvey soon resumed strengthening and quickly became a major hurricane and attained Category 4 intensity later that day. [7] Hours later, Harvey made landfall at San José Island, Texas, at peak intensity, followed by another landfall at Holiday Beach at Category 3 intensity. Afterwards, rapid weakening ensued, and Harvey had downgraded to a tropical storm as it stalled near the coastline, dropping torrential and unprecedented amounts of rainfall over Texas. [8] On August 28, it emerged back over the Gulf of Mexico, strengthening slightly before making a fifth and final landfall in Louisiana on August 29. [9] As Harvey drifted inland, it quickly weakened again as it became extratropical on September 1, before dissipating two days later. [10]

Tropical cyclones and subtropical cyclones are named by various warning centers to provide ease of communication between forecasters and the general public regarding forecasts, watches, and warnings. The names are intended to reduce confusion in the event of concurrent storms in the same basin. Generally once storms produce sustained wind speeds of more than 33 knots, names are assigned in order from predetermined lists depending on which basin they originate. However, standards vary from basin to basin: some tropical depressions are named in the Western Pacific, while tropical cyclones must have a significant amount of gale-force winds occurring around the centre before they are named in the Southern Hemisphere.

2017 Atlantic hurricane season hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was a hyperactive and catastrophic hurricane season that, with a damage total of at least $282.28 billion (USD), was the costliest tropical cyclone season on record. With over 3,300 deaths, 2017 was the deadliest season since 2005 and also featured the highest total accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) since the same year. Most of the season's damage was due to three major hurricanes – Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Another notable hurricane, Nate, was the worst natural disaster in Costa Rican history; Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate had their names retired due to their high damage costs and loss of life. Featuring 17 named storms, 10 hurricanes, and 6 major hurricanes, the 2017 season ranks alongside 1936 as the fifth-most active season since reliable records began in 1851. The 2017 season had the most major hurricanes since 2005. This season is also one of only six years on record to feature multiple Category 5 hurricanes and the only season other than 2007 with two hurricanes making landfall at that intensity. All ten of the season's hurricanes occurred in a row, the greatest number of consecutive hurricanes in the satellite era, and tied for the highest number of consecutive hurricanes ever observed in the Atlantic basin. Additionally, this season is the only season on record in which three hurricanes each had an ACE of over 40: Irma, Jose, and Maria.

Tropical wave type of atmospheric trough

Tropical waves, easterly waves, or tropical easterly waves, also known as African easterly waves in the Atlantic region, are a type of atmospheric trough, an elongated area of relatively low air pressure, oriented north to south, which moves from east to west across the tropics, causing areas of cloudiness and thunderstorms. West-moving waves can also form from the tail end of frontal zones in the subtropics and tropics, and may be referred to as easterly waves, but these waves are not properly called tropical waves; they are a form of inverted trough sharing many characteristics with fully tropical waves. All tropical waves form in the easterly flow along the equatorward side of the subtropical ridge or belt of high pressure which lies north and south of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). Tropical waves are generally carried westward by the prevailing easterly winds along the tropics and subtropics near the equator. They can lead to the formation of tropical cyclones in the north Atlantic and northeastern Pacific basins. A tropical wave study is aided by Hovmöller diagrams, a graph of meteorological data.

Harvey caused at least 107 confirmed deaths: 1 in Guyana, and 106 in the United States. Total damage from the hurricane is estimated at $125 billion (2017 USD), making it among the costliest natural disasters ever in the United States, comparable with Hurricane Katrina in 2005. [1] [11]

Guyana Country in South America

Guyana, officially the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, is a country on the northern mainland of South America. It is often considered part of the Caribbean region because of its strong cultural, historical, and political ties with other Anglo-Caribbean countries and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Guyana is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the north, Brazil to the south and southwest, Venezuela to the west, and Suriname to the east. With an area of 215,000 square kilometres (83,000 sq mi), Guyana is the third-smallest sovereign state on mainland South America after Uruguay and Suriname.

2005 Atlantic hurricane season Summary of the relevant tropical storms

The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was the most active Atlantic hurricane season in recorded history, shattering numerous records. The impact of the season was widespread and catastrophic. Its storms caused an estimated total of 3,960 deaths and approximately $180.7 billion in damage, making it the second costliest season on record, surpassed only by the 2017 season.

Meteorological history

Map plotting the track and the intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir-Simpson scale Harvey 2017 track.png
Map plotting the track and the intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir–Simpson scale

Hurricane Harvey originated from a westward-moving tropical wave that emerged from Africa over the eastern Atlantic Ocean, on August 12, 2017. A surface circulation slowly developed and convection consolidated around the low over the subsequent days; the system became a tropical depression on August 17, roughly 505 mi (815 km) east of Barbados. [3] Maintaining its brisk westward motion, the system strengthened slightly and became a tropical storm later that day, at which time it was assigned the name Harvey. With maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (75 km/h), Harvey made landfalls in Barbados and St. Vincent on August 18 before entering the Caribbean Sea. Hostile environmental conditions, namely wind shear, imparted weakening and caused Harvey to degenerate into a tropical wave by August 19. [4] Though it lacked an organized surface low, the remnants of Harvey continued to produce significant convection as it traversed the Caribbean Sea and Yucatán Peninsula. The system reached the Bay of Campeche in the Gulf of Mexico on August 23 and soon consolidated around a new surface low. [12]

Atmospheric convection

Atmospheric convection is the result of a parcel-environment instability, or temperature difference layer in the atmosphere. Different lapse rates within dry and moist air masses lead to instability. Mixing of air during the day which expands the height of the planetary boundary layer leads to increased winds, cumulus cloud development, and decreased surface dew points. Moist convection leads to thunderstorm development, which is often responsible for severe weather throughout the world. Special threats from thunderstorms include hail, downbursts, and tornadoes.

Barbados country in the Caribbean

Barbados is an island country in the Lesser Antilles of the West Indies, in the Caribbean region of North America. It is 34 kilometres in length and up to 23 km (14 mi) in width, covering an area of 432 km2 (167 sq mi). It is situated in the western area of the North Atlantic and 100 km (62 mi) east of the Windward Islands and the Caribbean Sea; therein, Barbados is east of the Windwards, part of the Lesser Antilles, roughly at 13°N of the equator. It is about 168 km (104 mi) east of both the countries of Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and 400 km (250 mi) north-east of Trinidad and Tobago. Barbados is outside the principal Atlantic hurricane belt. Its capital and largest city is Bridgetown.

The maximum sustained wind associated with a tropical cyclone is a common indicator of the intensity of the storm. Within a mature tropical cyclone, it is found within the eyewall at a distance defined as the radius of maximum wind, or RMW. Unlike gusts, the value of these winds are determined via their sampling and averaging the sampled results over a period of time. Wind measuring has been standardized globally to reflect the winds at 10 metres (33 ft) above the Earth's surface, and the maximum sustained wind represents the highest average wind over either a one-minute (US) or ten-minute time span, anywhere within the tropical cyclone. Surface winds are highly variable due to friction between the atmosphere and the Earth's surface, as well as near hills and mountains over land.

Hurricane Harvey as seen by NASA aboard the International Space Station on August 25

Late on August 23, the remnants of Harvey regenerated into a tropical cyclone and reattained tropical storm intensity by 18:00 UTC. [5] Initial reorganization was slow; however, within a highly favorable environment, the system soon underwent rapid intensification as an eye developed and its central pressure quickly fell. After becoming a hurricane on August 24, Harvey continued to quickly strengthen over the next day, ultimately reaching peak intensity as a Category 4 hurricane. [7] Around 03:00 UTC on August 26, the hurricane made landfall at peak intensity on San Jose Island, just east of Rockport, with winds of 130 mph (215 km/h) and an atmospheric pressure of 937  mbar (27.7  inHg ). It made a second landfall on the Texas mainland, at Rockport, three hours later in a slightly weakened state. Harvey became the first major hurricane to make landfall in the United States since Wilma in 2005. [12]

Rapid intensification

Rapid intensification is a meteorological condition that occurs when a tropical cyclone intensifies dramatically in a short period of time. The United States National Hurricane Center (NHC) defines rapid intensification as an increase in the maximum 1-min sustained winds of a tropical cyclone of at least 30 knots in a 24-hour period.

Eye (cyclone) region of mostly calm weather at the center of strong tropical cyclones

The eye is a region of mostly calm weather at the center of strong tropical cyclones. The eye of a storm is a roughly circular area, typically 30–65 km (20–40 miles) in diameter. It is surrounded by the eyewall, a ring of towering thunderstorms where the most severe weather and highest winds occur. The cyclone's lowest barometric pressure occurs in the eye and can be as much as 15 percent lower than the pressure outside the storm.

Atmospheric pressure, sometimes also called barometric pressure, is the pressure within the atmosphere of Earth. The standard atmosphere is a unit of pressure defined as 1013.25 mbar (101325 Pa), equivalent to 760 mm Hg (torr), 29.9212 inches Hg, or 14.696 psi. The atm unit is roughly equivalent to the mean sea-level atmospheric pressure on Earth, that is, the Earth's atmospheric pressure at sea level is approximately 1 atm.

After striking land, Harvey rapidly weakened as its speed slowed dramatically to a crawl, and Harvey weakened to a tropical storm on August 26. For about two days the storm stalled just inland, dropping very heavy rainfall and causing widespread flash flooding. Harvey's center drifted back towards the southeast, ultimately re-emerging into the Gulf of Mexico on August 28. Once offshore, the poorly organized system struggled against strong wind shear. Deep convection persisted north of the cyclone's center near the Houston metropolitan area along a stationary front, resulting in several days of record-breaking rain. Early on August 30, the former hurricane made its fifth and final landfall just west of Cameron, Louisiana with winds of 45 mph (75 km/h). Associated convection with Harvey became focused north of the center and along a warm front on September 1 as it moved further inland, indicating that the system transitioned into a post-tropical cyclone by 06:00 UTC that day. The remnants continued northeastwards, before being absorbed into another extratropical system on September 3. [12]

Gulf of Mexico An Atlantic Ocean basin extending into southern North America

The Gulf of Mexico is an ocean basin and a marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean, largely surrounded by the North American continent. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States, on the southwest and south by Mexico, and on the southeast by Cuba. The U.S. states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida border the Gulf on the north, which are often referred to as the "Third Coast", in comparison with the U.S. Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

A stationary front is a pair of air masses, neither of which is strong enough to replace the other. On a weather map, this is shown by an inter-playing series of blue spikes pointing one direction and red domes pointing the other. They tend to remain essentially in the same area for extended periods of time, and waves sometimes propagate along the frontal boundary.

Cameron, Louisiana Census-designated place in Louisiana, United States

Cameron is a census-designated place (CDP) in and the parish seat of Cameron Parish, Louisiana, United States. It is part of the Lake Charles Metropolitan Statistical Area. After sustaining extreme damage from Hurricane Rita in 2005 and Hurricane Ike in 2008, the 2010 Census showed Cameron having a population of just 406, a 79% drop in population between the years 2000 and 2010.


Caribbean and Latin America

Tropical Storm Harvey in the Eastern Caribbean on August 18 Harvey 2017-08-18 Suomi NPP.jpg
Tropical Storm Harvey in the Eastern Caribbean on August 18

Tropical cyclone warnings and watches for the Windward Islands were issued starting at 15:00 UTC on August 17, about six hours before Harvey developed. At that time, a tropical storm watch was posted for Dominica, while a tropical storm warning became in effect in Barbados, Martinique, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. [13] All watches and warnings were discontinued by late on August 18, as the storm continued westward into the Caribbean. [14]

In Honduras, a green alert was issued for the Atlántida, Islas de la Bahía, Colón, Cortés, Gracias a Dios, Olancho, and Yoro departments. About 8 inches (200 mm) of precipitation was expected along the coast, while inland areas were forecast to receive 2.76 to 3.15 in (70 to 80 mm) of rain. [15] As the remnants of Harvey approached Mexico, the Civil Protection Secretary of the state of Campeche issued a blue alert, indicating minimal danger. [16] When Harvey redeveloped at 15:00 UTC on August 23, the Government of Mexico issued a tropical storm watch in Tamaulipas from Boca De Catan to the mouth of the Rio Grande. [17] The watch remained in effect until 21:00 UTC on August 25, after it became evident that the storm no longer posed a significant threat to that area. [18]

United States

FEMA worked with the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to prepare for the storm and its aftermath. The agency placed disaster response teams on standby at emergency posts in Austin, Texas, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. [19]


Upon the NHC resuming advisories for Harvey at 15:00 UTC on August 23, a hurricane watch was issued in Texas from Port Mansfield to San Luis Pass, while a tropical storm watch was posted from Port Mansfield south to the mouth of the Rio Grande and from San Luis Pass to High Island. Additionally, a storm surge watch became in effect from Port Mansfield to High Island. Additional watches and warnings were posted in these areas at 09:00 UTC on August 24, with a hurricane warning from Port Mansfield to Matagorda; a tropical storm warning from Matagorda to High Island; a hurricane watch and tropical storm warning from Port Mansfield to the Rio Grande; a storm surge warning from Port Mansfield to San Luis Pass; and a storm surge from Port Mansfield to the Rio Grande. [12] As the hurricane neared landfall on August 24, an extreme wind warning—indicating an immediate threat of 115–145 mph (185–235 km/h) winds—was issued for areas expected to be impacted by the eyewall; this included parts of Aransas, Calhoun, Nueces, Refugio, and San Patricio counties. [20] The watches and warnings were adjusted accordingly after Harvey moved inland and began weakening, with the warning discontinued at 15:00 UTC on August 26. By 09:00 UTC on the following day, only a tropical storm warning and a storm surge warning remained in effect from Port O'Connor to Sargent. However, watches and warnings were re-issued as Harvey began to re-emerge into the Gulf of Mexico, and beginning at 15:00 UTC on August 28, a tropical storm warning was in effect for the entire Gulf Coast of Texas from High Island northward. [12]

Governor Greg Abbott declared a state of emergency for 30  counties on August 23, while mandatory evacuations were issued for Brazoria, Calhoun, Jackson, Refugio, San Patricio, and Victoria counties, as well as parts of Matagorda County. [21] On August 26, Governor Abbott added an additional 20 counties to the state of emergency declaration. [22] Furthermore, the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters was activated by the USGS on behalf of the Governor's Texas Emergency Management Council, including the Texas Division of Emergency Management, thus providing for humanitarian satellite coverage. [23]


In Louisiana, Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency for the entire state. A mandatory evacuation was ordered in Cameron Parish for the cities of Big Lake, Cameron, Creole, Grand Chenier, Hackberry, Holly Beach, and Johnson Bayou. Additionally, a voluntary evacuation was ordered in Vermilion Parish for low-lying areas south of State Highway 14. The Louisiana National Guard prepared about 500,000 sandbags and emergency boats and high-water-rescue vehicles were placed on standby should flooding occur. In New Orleans, there were concerns about whether or not the city's drainage system could handle a heavy rainfall event, with only 105 of the 120 water pumps being operational and some power turbines being out of service. [24] The city's public schools, as well as six universities and a medical school, closed on August 29. [25] As Harvey began re-emerging into the Gulf of Mexico on August 28, the tropical storm warning in Texas from Mesquite Bay to High Island was extended eastward into Louisiana to the community of Cameron at 12:00 UTC, while a tropical storm watch was issued from Cameron to Intracoastal City. [12]

Video briefings by officials

Summary of tropical cyclone warnings and watches associated with Hurricane Harvey
DateTimeWarning typeAreas
August 1715:00 UTCTropical Storm Watch Dominica
Tropical Storm Warning Martinique, Saint Lucia, Barbados, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
August 1812:00 UTCTropical Storm Warning discontinuedBarbados
18:00 UTCAll warnings and watches discontinuedAll locations
August 2315:00 UTCTropical Storm WatchMouth of the Rio Grande to Port Mansfield, Texas
Tropical Storm Watch San Luis Pass to High Island, Texas
Tropical Storm Watch Boca de Catan, Mexico to mouth of the Rio Grande
Hurricane WatchPort Mansfield to San Luis Pass, Texas
August 2409:00 UTCTropical Storm WarningMouth of the Rio Grande to Port Mansfield, Texas
Hurricane WatchMouth of the Rio Grande to Port Mansfield, Texas
Tropical Storm Watch discontinuedSan Luis Pass to High Island, Texas
Tropical Storm Warning Matagorda to High Island, Texas
Hurricane WarningPort Mansfield to Matagorda, Texas
21:00 UTCTropical Storm Warning Sargent to High Island, Texas
Hurricane WarningPort Mansfield to Sargent, Texas
August 2515:00 UTCTropical Storm WarningMouth of the Rio Grande to Port Mansfield, Texas
21:00 UTCTropical Storm Watch discontinuedAll locations
Tropical Storm Warning discontinuedMouth of the Rio Grande to Port Mansfield, Texas
August 2609:00 UTCTropical Storm Warning Port O'Connor to High Island, Texas
Hurricane Warning discontinuedPort Mansfield to Sargent, Texas
15:00 UTCTropical Storm Warning Baffin Bay to High Island, Texas
Hurricane Warning discontinuedAll locations
August 2703:00 UTCTropical Storm WarningBaffin Bay to Sargent, Texas
09:00 UTCTropical Storm WarningPort O'Connor to Sargent, Texas
21:00 UTCTropical Storm WatchSargent to San Luis Pass, Texas
August 2803:00 UTCTropical Storm Watch discontinuedAll locations
Tropical Storm Warning discontinuedPort O'Connor to Sargent, Texas
Tropical Storm WarningMesquite Bay to High Island, Texas
15:00 UTCTropical Storm Watch Cameron to Intracoastal City, Louisiana
Tropical Storm WarningMesquite Bay, Texas to Cameron, Louisiana
21:00 UTCTropical Storm Watch discontinuedAll locations
Tropical Storm WarningMesquite Bay, Texas to Intracoastal City, Louisiana
August 2915:00 UTCTropical Storm Watch Morgan City to Grand Isle, Louisiana
Tropical Storm Warning discontinuedMesquite Bay, Texas to Intracoastal City, Louisiana
Tropical Storm WarningPort O'Connor, Texas to Morgan City, Louisiana
August 3003:00 UTCTropical Storm Watch discontinuedAll locations
Tropical Storm Warning discontinuedPort O'Connor, Texas to Morgan City, Louisiana
Tropical Storm Warning Freeport, Texas to Grand Isle, Louisiana
09:00 UTCTropical Storm WarningHigh Island, Texas to Grand Isle, Louisiana
12:00 UTCTropical Storm WarningFreeport, Texas to Grand Isle, Louisiana
18:00 UTCTropical Storm Warning Sabine Pass to Grand Isle, Louisiana
August 3100:00 UTCTropical Storm Warning discontinuedAll locations

Impacts in the Caribbean and Latin America

Winds left residents throughout Barbados without electricity, with a majority of outages occurring in Christ Church, Saint Joseph, Saint Lucy, and Saint Michael provinces. Flooding washed one house off its foundation, while water entered some houses, forcing some people to evacuate. Bridges in Saint Andrew and Saint Joseph were damaged. Additionally, a fuel depot in Speightstown was flooded. Winds from Harvey ripped the roof off of a church. [26] In Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, nine homes were flooded and four others experienced wind damage. Also, a tree fell on a school, damaging the building. Blocked drains in Port Elizabeth resulted in more than 15 businesses being flooded. A total of 15 people were housed in shelters after the storm. [27]

Strong winds and heavy rainfall also affected Suriname and Guyana. In the former, high winds in the capital city of Paramaribo caused roof damage to the Presidential Palace and two homes, while the Torarica Hotel and Casino suffered structural impact. Additionally, four dwellings were deroofed in Commewijne and three others lost their roofs in Wanica; in the latter, the Ministry of Social Affairs building was damaged by falling trees. In Guyana, the village of Jawalla bore the brunt of the storm. Four homes were demolished, while five other residences and two shops were damaged. Several public buildings were also damaged, including the community center, the village council buildings, the nursery, and public schools. A 29-year-old woman died after her house collapsed on her. [27]

Impacts in the United States

Satellite picture of Harvey making landfall in Texas on August 26 Harvey 2017-08-26 0425Z.jpg
Satellite picture of Harvey making landfall in Texas on August 26

The widespread and catastrophic effects of Hurricane Harvey resulted in one of the costliest natural disasters in United States history. An estimated 300,000 structures and 500,000 vehicles were damaged or destroyed in Texas alone. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated total damage at $125 billion, with a 90% confidence interval of $90–160 billion. The scope of flooding in areas with low National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) participation lends to the large uncertainty in the damage total. This ranks Harvey as the costliest tropical cyclone on record in the country alongside Hurricane Katrina in 2005. However, accounting for inflation and cost increases since 2005, the National Hurricane Center considers Harvey the second-costliest. [12] Nationwide, 107 people died in storm-related incidents: 103 in Texas, 2 in Arkansas, 1 in Tennessee, and 1 in Kentucky. Of the deaths in Texas, 68 were from the direct effects of Harvey, the highest such number in the state since 1919. [12]


Flooding in Port Arthur, Texas on August 31 Support during Hurricane Harvey (TX) (50).jpg
Flooding in Port Arthur, Texas on August 31

Throughout Texas, approximately 336,000 people were left without electricity and tens of thousands required rescue. Throughout the state, 103 people died in storm-related incidents: 68 from its direct effects, including flooding, and 35 from indirect effects in the hurricane's aftermath. [12] By August 29, 2017 approximately 13,000 people had been rescued across the state while an estimated 30,000 were displaced. [28] The refinery industry capacity was reduced, and oil and gas production was affected in the Gulf of Mexico and inland Texas. [29] [30] On Monday, the closure of oil refineries ahead of Hurricane Harvey created a fuel shortage. Panicked motorists waited in long lines. Consequently, gas stations through the state were forced to close due to the rush. [31] More than 20 percent of refining capacity was affected. [32]

More than 48,700 homes were affected by Harvey throughout the state, including over 1,000 that were completely destroyed and more than 17,000 that sustained major damage; approximately 32,000 sustained minor damage. Nearly 700 businesses were damaged as well. [33] Yet the Texas Department of Public Safety stated more than 185,000 homes were damaged and 9,000 destroyed. [34]

The hurricane also caused many people to believe that in the wild, only 10 individuals of Attwater's prairie chicken remained at most [35] until Spring 2018, when it was discovered that there were about a dozen wild individuals left. [36]

Landfall area

Coast Guard video during an overflight from Port Aransas to Port O'Connor, Texas, Aug. 26, 2017

Making landfall as a Category 4 hurricane, Harvey inflicted tremendous damage across Aransas County. [37] Wind gusts were observed up to 132 mph (212 km/h) near Port Aransas. [38] Nearly every structure in Port Aransas was damaged, some severely, while significant damage from storm surge also occurred. [37] In Rockport, entire blocks were destroyed by the hurricane's violent eyewall winds. The city's courthouse was severely damaged when a cargo trailer was hurled into it, coming to a stop halfway through the structure. The gymnasium of the Rockport-Fulton High School lost multiple walls while the school itself suffered considerable damage. [37] Many homes, apartment buildings, and businesses sustained major structural damage from the intense winds, and several were completely destroyed. Numerous boats were damaged or sunk at a marina in town, airplanes and structures were destroyed at the Aransas County Airport, and a Fairfield Inn in the city was severely damaged as well. [39] About 20 percent of Rockport's population was displaced, and they were still unable to return to their homes a year after the hurricane. [40] One person died in a house fire in the city, unable to be rescued due to the extreme weather conditions. [41] Just north of Rockport, many structures were also severely damaged in the nearby town of Fulton. In the small community of Holiday Beach, catastrophic damage occurred as almost every home in town was severely damaged or destroyed by storm surge and violent winds. By the afternoon of August 26, more than 20 in (510 mm) of rain had fallen in the Corpus Christi metropolitan area. [22] All of Victoria was left without water and most had no power. [37]

Houston metropolitan area flooding

Precipitation in Nederland, TX Precipitation in Nederland, TX in 2017.svg
Precipitation in Nederland, TX
U.S. Navy Sailors conduct a search and rescue mission above a residence in Beaumont, Texas

Many locations in the Houston metropolitan area observed at least 30 in (760 mm) of precipitation, [42] with a maximum of 60.58 in (1,539 mm) in Nederland. [43] This makes Harvey the wettest tropical cyclone on record for both Texas and the United States, [44] surpassing the previous rainfall record held by Tropical Storm Amelia. [45] The local National Weather Service office in Houston observed all-time record daily rainfall accumulations on both August 26 and 27, measured at 14.4 in (370 mm) and 16.08 in (408 mm) respectively. [46] Due to the amount of rain accumulated from Harvey, the National Weather Service added 2 new colors to the rain index representing around 50% of the maximum rainfall dropped by Harvey. Multiple flash flood emergencies were issued in the Houston area by the National Weather Service beginning the night of August 26. In Pearland, a suburb south of Houston, a report was made of 9.92" of rainfall in 90 minutes. [47] The 39.11 in (993 mm) of rain in August made the month the wettest ever recorded in Houston since record keeping began in 1892, more than doubling the previous record of 19.21 in (488 mm) in June 2001. [48] The storm surge peaked at 6 feet at Port Lavaca, [49] [50] reducing outflow of rainwater from land to sea. [51]

During the storm, more than 800 Houston area flights were canceled, including 704 at George Bush Intercontinental Airport and 123 at William P. Hobby Airport. Both airports eventually closed. [52] Several tornadoes were spawned in the area, one of which damaged or destroyed the roofs of dozens of homes in Sienna Plantation. [22] As of August 29, 14 fatalities have been confirmed from flooding in the Houston area, including 6 from the same family who died when their van was swept off a flooded bridge. [53] A police officer drowned while trying to escape rising waters. [54]

Enlarged map of rainfall from the hurricane in the Houston and Beaumont metropolitan areas in southeast Texas. Areas in blue indicate accumulations in excess of 15 in (380 mm), while areas in yellow indicate accumulations in excess of 40 in (1,000 mm). Harvey 2017 rainfall SE Texas.gif
Enlarged map of rainfall from the hurricane in the Houston and Beaumont metropolitan areas in southeast Texas. Areas in blue indicate accumulations in excess of 15 in (380 mm), while areas in yellow indicate accumulations in excess of 40 in (1,000 mm).

An estimated 25–30 percent of Harris County—roughly 444 mi2 (1,150 km2) of land—was submerged. [28]

Late on August 27, a mandatory evacuation was issued for all of Bay City as model projections indicated the downtown area would be inundated by 10 ft (3.0 m) of water. Flooding was anticipated to cut off access to the city around 1:00 p.m. CDT on August 28. [55] Evacuations took place in Conroe on August 28 following release of water from the Lake Conroe dam. [56] On the morning on August 29, a levee along Columbia Lakes in Brazoria County was breached, prompting officials to urgently request for everyone in the area to evacuate. [57] [58]

On August 28, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began controlled water releases from Addicks and Barker Reservoirs in the Buffalo Bayou watershed in an attempt to manage flood levels in the immediate area. According to the local Corps commander, "It's going to be better to release the water through the gates directly into Buffalo Bayou as opposed to letting it go around the end and through additional neighborhoods and ultimately into the bayou." At the time the releases started, the reservoirs had been rising at more than 6 inches (150 mm) per hour. [59] Many people began evacuating the area, fearing a levee breach. [60] Despite attempts to alleviate the water rise, the Addicks Reservoir reached capacity on the morning of August 29 and began spilling out. [61] The NASA Johnson Space Center was closed to employees and visitors due to the flooding until September 5. Only the critical mission control staff remain and reside in the control rooms to monitor procedures of the International Space Station. [62]

Deep East Texas and Beaumont to Port Arthur area

Anyone who chooses to not [evacuate] cannot expect to be rescued and should write their social security numbers in permanent marker on their arm so their bodies can be identified. The loss of life and property is certain. GET OUT OR DIE!

Jacques Blanchette, Tyler County Emergency Management [63]

The Beaumont–Port Arthur metropolitan area also experienced torrential precipitation, including 32.55 in (827 mm) of rainfall in Beaumont. [42] Rising waters of the Neches River caused the city to lose service from its main pump station, as well as its secondary water source in Hardin County, cutting water supply to the city for an unknown amount of time. [64] Flooding to the north and east of the Houston area resulted in mandatory evacuations for portions of Liberty, Jefferson, and Tyler counties, while Jasper and Newton counties were under a voluntary evacuation. [65] One death occurred in Beaumont when a woman exited her disabled vehicle, but was swept away. [66] In Port Arthur, the mayor stated that the entire city was submerged by water. Hundreds of displaced residents went to the Robert A. "Bob" Bowers Civic Center for shelter, but they were evacuated again after the building began to flood. Water entered at least several hundreds of homes in Jefferson County. [67]


Infrared satellite loop of Harvey making its third U.S. landfall in Louisiana on August 30 Harvey AVN 20170830 0145 UTC.gif
Infrared satellite loop of Harvey making its third U.S. landfall in Louisiana on August 30

Heavy rainfall extended eastward into Louisiana, with the state recording up to 14.88 in (378 mm) of precipitation near the town of Iowa. [42] In the city of Lake Charles, water reached 4 ft (1.2 m) in height, with homes flooded and hundreds of people forced to evacuate in one neighborhood alone. Throughout the state, about 500 people were rescued by August 28, while 269 people went to a shelter in southwest Louisiana, about 200 of whom were rescued from their homes. [68] An EF2 tornado near Evangeline damaged four homes, one of which was destroyed. The tornado also damaged fences, a motorcycle, a pickup truck, and toppled three electrical poles. [69]


Map of the total rainfall from Hurricane Harvey in the United States. Harvey 2017 rainfall.gif
Map of the total rainfall from Hurricane Harvey in the United States.

Rain-slicked roads were blamed for two fatal accidents in Arkansas. [70] [71] In Alabama, a tornado in the vicinity of Reform damaged two homes and destroyed a barn along State Route 17, while four people were hospitalized for their injuries. A possible tornado in Lamar County near Kennedy caused damage to trees and roofs. [72] In Tennessee, more than 19,000 people lost electricity in Memphis. [73] Low-lying streets in the area were inundated with water. One indirect death occurred in Memphis due to a weather-related head-on collision of a car and a tractor trailer on Interstate 40. [74] Heavy rainfall in Nashville inundated a number of roads and flooded an apartment complex, resulting in the evacuation of 13 people. Overall, about 50 people in the city evacuated from flooded areas. [75] Rain in Kentucky was blamed for a fatal car accident. [76]

On September 1, the outer bands of Harvey's remnants passed through North Carolina. Severe weather was reported across the central part of the state. Tornadoes touched down in Angier, Clayton, and Smithfield, high wind knocked out power in Fuquay-Varina, Sanford, and Holly Springs, and large hail hit parts of Wake, Harnett, and Johnston counties. In Willow Spring, hail larger than softballs damaged homes and cars. Flash flooding hit Greenville further east.

Energy production

Energy production in the Gulf of Mexico declined in the wake of Harvey by approximately 21% — the output dropped to 378,633 barrels per day from the original 1.75 million barrels of oil produced each day. The Eagle Ford Rock Formation (shale oil and gas) in southern Texas reduced production by 300,000 to 500,000 bpd, according to the Texas Railroad Commission. Many energy-related ports and terminals closed, delaying about fourteen crude oil tankers. About 2.25 million bpd of refining capacity was offline for several days; that is about 12% of total US capacity, with refineries affected at Corpus Christi, and later Port Arthur and Beaumont, and Lake Charles, Louisiana. The price of Brent crude versus West Texas Intermediate crude oil achieved a split of U.S.$5. [77]

Two ExxonMobil refineries had to be shut down following related storm damage and releases of hazardous pollutants. [78] Two oil storage tanks owned by Burlington Resources Oil and Gas collectively spilled 30,000 gallons of crude in DeWitt County. An additional 8,500 gallons of wastewater was spilled in the incidents. [79]

On August 30, the CEO of Arkema warned one of its chemical plants in Crosby, Texas, could explode or be subject to intense fire due to the loss of "critical refrigeration" of materials. [80] All workers at the facility and residents within 1.5 mi (2.4 km) were evacuated. Eight of the plant's nine refrigeration units failed without power, enabling the stored chemicals to decompose and become combustible. Two explosions occurred around 2:00 a.m. on August 31; 21 emergency personnel were briefly hospitalized. [81]

Due to the shutdown in refineries, gas prices did see an increase nationwide. [82] However, the increase was not as extensive as Hurricane Katrina due to the development of more fuel-efficient vehicles as well as fracking technology having been refined since Katrina to allow oil drilling in shale areas such as the Marcellus Formation. [83] Additionally, Harvey's impact coincided with Labor Day Weekend, which sees a traditional increase in gas prices due to the heavy travel for that weekend. [84] Nonetheless, the spike brought the highest gas prices in two years. [83]


In the aftermath of the storm, the Houston Astros began wearing this patch during the 2017 season in support of the storm's victims in Houston. They eventually went on to win the World Series. Astros Strong.png
In the aftermath of the storm, the Houston Astros began wearing this patch during the 2017 season in support of the storm's victims in Houston. They eventually went on to win the World Series.

The flooding in Houston from the storm required the traditional Governor's Cup National Football League preseason game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Texans scheduled for August 31 to be moved from NRG Stadium in Houston to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. [85] The game was later cancelled to allow the Houston Texans players to return to Houston after the storm. [86] In addition, the Houston Astros were forced to move their August 29–31 series with the Texas Rangers from Minute Maid Park in Houston to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida; [87] ironically, just two weeks later, Hurricane Irma would force the stadium's regular tenants, the Tampa Bay Rays, to move three home games to Citi Field in New York City. [88] In the aftermath, the Houston Astros began to wear patches which had the logo of the team with the word "Strong" on the bottom of the patch, as well as promoting the hashtag Houston Strong, prominently displaying them as the Astros won the 2017 World Series. [89] [90] Manager A. J. Hinch has stated in an interview that the team wasn't just playing for a title, but to help boost moral support for the city. [91] The annual Texas Kickoff game that was to feature BYU and LSU to kick off the 2017 college football season was moved to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. [92] The NCAA FBS football game between Houston and UTSA was postponed due to the aftermath of the storm. It was originally scheduled for September 2 at the Alamodome in San Antonio and was ultimately canceled. [93]

The Houston Dynamo rescheduled a planned Major League Soccer match against Sporting Kansas City on August 26 to October 11. The Houston Dash of the National Women's Soccer League rescheduled their August 27 match against the North Carolina Courage to a date that has not been announced. [94] Both teams moved their training camps to Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas (near Dallas) while preparing for their next matches; the Dash's match the following week, against the Seattle Reign, will be played in Frisco, with all proceeds from ticket sales benefiting an American Red Cross relief fund for hurricane victims. [95] The Dynamo and Major League Soccer also donated a combined $1 million into the hurricane relief fund, while also opening BBVA Compass Stadium to accept donated supplies for processing and distribution. [96] [97]

Athletic events were rescheduled as far away as Kentucky, where the storm's remnants were expected to cause heavy rains on September 1, interfering with Friday night high school football. More than 50 high schools in the state moved games that had been scheduled for Friday to either Thursday or Saturday. [98]


President Trump participating in a tour of the Emergency Operations Center, video from the White House
Interview with Sylvester Turner and Al Sharpton on September 1st 2017 – from MSNBC
Damage by Harvey to a marina in Rockport, Texas, on August 28, 2017 Hurricane Harvey (2017) 170828-Z-FG822-026 (36127995543).jpg
Damage by Harvey to a marina in Rockport, Texas, on August 28, 2017


Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner imposed a mandatory curfew on August 29 from 12 a.m. to 5 a.m. local time until further notice. He cited looting as the primary reason for the curfew. [99] On August 29, President Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, and U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz toured damage in the Corpus Christi metropolitan area. [100] President Trump made a formal request for $5.95 billion in federal funding on August 31 for affected areas, the vast majority of which would go to FEMA. [101]

Texas Governor Greg Abbott deployed the state's entire National Guard for search and rescue, recovery, and clean up operations due to the devastating damage caused by the storm and resulting floods. [102] [103] Other states' National Guard's have offered assistance, with several having already been sent. [104] [105] Meanwhile, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement assigned approximately 150 employees from around the country to assist with disaster relief efforts, while stating that no immigration enforcement operations would be conducted. [33]

Approximately 32,000 people were displaced in shelters across the state by August 31. The George R. Brown Convention Center, the state's largest shelter, reached capacity with 8,000 evacuees. The NRG Center opened as a large public shelter accordingly. More than 210,000 people registered with FEMA for disaster assistance. [106]

The Cajun Navy, an informal organization of volunteers with boats from Louisiana, deployed to Texas to assist in high-water rescues. [107]

The Houston Independent School District announced that all students on any of the district's campuses would be eligible for free lunch throughout the 2017–18 school year. The Federal Department of Education eased financial aid rules and procedures for those affected by Harvey, giving schools the ability to waive paperwork requirements; loan borrowers were given more flexibility in managing their loan payments. [33] A 36-year-old inmate sentenced to death for a 2003 murder was granted a temporary reprieve as a result of Harvey, as his legal team was based in Harris County, an area heavily affected by the hurricane. [33]

By August 30, corporations across the nation collectively donated more than $72 million to relief efforts, with 42 companies donating at least $1 million. [108] Professional athletic teams, their players, and managers provided large donations to assist victims of the storm. The Houston Astros pledged $4 million to relief along with all proceeds from their home game raffles. Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander also donated $4 million to the cause. [109] A fundraiser established by Houston Texans defensive lineman J. J. Watt exceeded $37 million. For his efforts, Watt received the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. [110] The Texas Rangers and Tennessee Titans both provided $1 million, while the New England Patriots pledged to match up to $1 million in donations to the Red Cross. [111] Multiple Hollywood celebrities also pitched in, collectively donating more than $10 million, with Sandra Bullock providing the largest single donation of $1 million. [112] Leonardo DiCaprio provided $1 million to the United Way Harvey Recovery Fund through his foundation. [113] President Donald Trump donated $1 million to 12 charities involved in relief efforts. [114] Rachael Ray provided donations totaling $1 million to animal shelters across the Houston area. [115]

Costliest U.S. Atlantic hurricanes
1 Katrina 2005 $125 billion
Harvey 2017
3 Maria 2017 $90 billion
4 Sandy 2012 $65 billion
5 Irma 2017 $53.4 billion
6 Ike 2008 $30 billion
7 Andrew 1992 $27 billion
8 Michael 2018 $25 billion
9 Florence 2018 $24.2 billion
10 Ivan 2004 $20.5 billion
Source: National Hurricane Center [116] [nb 2] [117]

Economic loss estimates

Moody's Analytics initially estimated the total economic cost of the storm at $81 billion to $108 billion or more; most of the economic losses are damage to homes and commercial property. [118] Reinsurance company Aon Benfield estimated total economic losses at $100 billion, including $30 billion in insured damage, making Harvey the costliest disaster in 2017 by their calculations. [119] USA Today reported an AccuWeather estimate of $190 billion, released August 31. [120] On September 3, Texas state governor Greg Abbott estimated that damages will be between $150 billion and $180 billion, surpassing the $120 billion that it took to rebuild New Orleans after Katrina. [121] [122] According to weather analytics firm Planalytics, lost revenue to Houston area retailers and restaurants alone will be approximately $1 billion. The Houston area controls 4% of the spending power in the United States. [123]

In September 2017, the Insurance Council of Texas estimated the total insured losses from Hurricane Harvey at $19 billion. This figure represents $11 billion in flood losses insured by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), $3 billion in "insured windstorm and other storm-related property losses"; and about $4.75 billion in insured flood losses of private and commercial vehicles. [124] By January 1, 2018, payouts from the NFIP reached $7.6 billion against total estimated losses of $8.5–9.5 billion. [125] Economists Michael Hicks and Mark Burton at Ball State University estimated damage in the Houston metropolitan area alone at $198.63 billion. [126] Preliminary reporting from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration set a more concrete total at $125 billion, making Harvey the 2nd costliest tropical cyclone on record, behind Hurricane Katrina with 2017 costs of $161 billion (after adjusting for inflation). [11]

A significant portion of the storm's damages are uninsured losses. Regular homeowner insurance policies generally exclude coverage for flooding, as the NFIP underwrites most flood insurance policies in the US. [127] [128] Although the purchase of flood insurance is obligatory for federally guaranteed mortgages for homes within the 100-year flood plain, enforcement of the requirement is difficult and many homes, even within the 100-year flood plain, lack flood insurance. [127] In Harris County, Texas—which includes the city of Houston—only 15% of homes have flood insurance policies issued by the NFIP. Participation in the NFIP is higher, but still low, in neighboring Galveston (41%), Brazoria (26%), and Chambers Counties (21%). [127] Homeowners sued authorities after reservoir releases damaged homes. [129]

Federal Government response

President Trump signs H.R. 601 into effect, providing $15 billion in disaster relief for hurricane victims President Trump signing Hurricane Harvey bill (cropped).jpg
President Trump signs H.R. 601 into effect, providing $15 billion in disaster relief for hurricane victims

On September 8, President Donald Trump signed into law H.R. 601, which among other spending actions designated $15 billion for Hurricane Harvey relief. [130]

Non-governmental organization response

The American Red Cross, Salvation Army, United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), Gulf Coast Synod Disaster Relief, [131] [132] United States Equestrian Federation, Humane Society of the United States, Knights of Columbus, Catholic Charities USA, AmeriCares, Operation BBQ relief, many celebrities, and many other charitable organizations provided help to the victims of the storm. [133] [134] [135] Anarchists (including Antifa) also provided relief. [136] [ better source needed ] [137] Business aviation played a part in the rescue efforts, providing support during the storm as well as relief flights bringing in suppliers in the immediate aftermath. [138]

Volunteers from amateur radio's emergency service wing, the Amateur Radio Emergency Service, provided communications in American Red Cross shelters in South Texas. [139]

Many corporations also contributed to relief efforts. Operation BBQ relief had the help from several local individuals and businesses kick off the support of providing meals for volunteers and victims. Smokers, pallets of wood, and another company came up with the pounds of pork to kick off the support effort. [140] Although Operation BBQ relief has been in effect since May 2011 with the 2011 Joplin tornado, they estimate the Houston 2017 relief project to be their biggest ever.

Operation BBQ relief vendors volunteering for the Houston flood relief estimates that they will serve at least 450,000 meals. [141] On August 27, 2017 it was estimated that Operation BBQ relief will be expecting 25,000 to 30,000 meals a day. [142]

On August 27, 2017, KSL-TV, KSL Newsradio, FM100.3, and 103.5 The Arrow created a fundraiser to help Texas residents impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Because of an anonymous donor willing to match $2 for every $1 raised up to a total of $100,000, Peter Huntsman also agreed to match donations up to $100,000. The combined total of $200,000 was met by August 31, 2017. Their new goal is $1 million. [143]

Foreign government response

Singapore dispatched Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopters from the Republic of Singapore Air Force to areas affected by the hurricane for humanitarian operations, working alongside the Texas National Guard. [144] Israel pledged $1 million in relief funds for restoration of non-state run communal infrastructure. [145] Mexico sent volunteers from the Mexican Red Cross, firemen from Coahuila, and rescue teams from Guanajuato to Houston to assist in relief. [146] Mexico later rescinded their commitment for aid after Hurricane Katia made landfall on Mexico's Gulf Coast, on September 9, 2017. [147] Venezuela offered $5 million through the state-owned Citgo Petroleum, which operates a refinery in Corpus Christi. [148]

Health and environmental hazards in flood waters

The floodwaters contain a number of hazards to the environment and human health. The Houston Health Department stated that "millions of contaminants" were present in floodwaters. [149] These include E. coli and coliform bacteria; measurements of colony-forming units showed the concentrations were so high that there were risks of contracting flesh-eating disease from the water. [150]

Houston officials stated that the Houston drinking water and sewer systems were intact; however, "hundreds of thousands of people across the 38 Texas counties affected by Hurricane Harvey use private wells, according to an estimate by Louisiana State University researchers, and those people must fend for themselves." [149] Additionally, Harris County, which includes Houston, contains a large number of Superfund-designed brownfield sites that contain a wide variety of toxins and carcinogens. [149] Two Superfund sites in Corpus Christi were flooded. [149]

Baby boom

In the months after the hurricane struck, some hospitals in Texas saw a spike in birth rates, with a 17% increase in birth rates being reported at Corpus Christi Medical Center. [151] A similar, larger baby boom also occurred after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. [ citation needed ]


On April 11, 2018, at the 40th session of the RA IV hurricane committee, the World Meteorological Organization retired the name Harvey from its rotating name lists, due to the extensive damage and loss of life it caused along its track, particularly in the state of Texas, and its name will never again be used for another Atlantic hurricane. It will be replaced with Harold for the 2023 season. [152]

Environmental factors

Houston's very flat topography makes flooding a problem. (Simulated-color image) Large Houston Landsat.jpg
Houston's very flat topography makes flooding a problem. (Simulated-color image)

The geography of Houston places it in a low-lying part of the Gulf Coastal Plain, and its clay-based soils provide poor drainage. The climate of Houston brings very heavy rainfall, which together with tidal flood events means that there have been repeated floods in the city ever since its founding in 1836, though the flood control district founded in 1947, aided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, managed to prevent statewide flooding for over fifty years. More recently, residents died in "historic flooding" in May 2015, and in the April 2016 "tax day floods". [153] [154] There is a tendency for storms to move very slowly over the region, allowing them to produce tremendous amounts of rain over an extended period, as occurred during Tropical Storm Claudette in 1979, and Tropical Storm Allison in 2001. [155]

The area is a very flat flood plain at shallow gradient, slowly draining rainwater through an intricate network of channels and bayous to the sea. The main waterways, the San Jacinto River and the Buffalo Bayou, meander slowly, laden with mud, and have little capacity for carrying storm water. [156]

Urban development

Houston has seen rapid urban development (urban sprawl), with absorbent prairie and wetlands replaced by hard surfaces which rapidly shed storm water, overwhelming the drainage capacity of the rivers and channels. [157] Between 1992 and 2010, almost 25,000 acres of wetlands were lost, decreasing the detention capacity of the region by four billion gallons. [158] However, Harvey was estimated to have dropped more than fifteen trillion gallons of water in the area. [159]

The Katy Prairie in western Harris County, which once helped to absorb floodwaters in the region, has been reduced to one quarter of its previous size in the last several decades due to suburban development, and one analysis discovered that more than 7,000 housing units have been built within the 100-year floodplain in Harris County since 2010. [160]


As Houston has expanded, rainwater infiltration in the region has lessened and aquifer extraction increased, causing the depletion of underground aquifers. When the saturated ground dries, the soil can be compressed and the land surface elevation decreases in a process called subsidence. Subsidence can also occur due to sediment settling. Specifically, regions to the north and west of the Houston metro have seen 10 millimetres (0.39 in) to 25 millimetres (0.98 in) of subsidence per year. [161] While oil extraction can cause subsidence, in the Houston-Galveston area, most oil has been extracted from sandstone that has relatively negligible ability to compress once oil has been removed. Thus, oil extraction has not resulted in significant subsidence. [161] Further, the volume of oil extraction in the Houston area is too low to cause significant subsidence. [162]

Climate change

The Gulf of Mexico is known for hurricanes in August, so their incidence alone cannot be attributed to global warming, but the warming climate does influence certain attributes of storms. Studies in this regard show that storms tend to intensify more rapidly prior to landfall. [163] Weather events are due to multiple factors, and so cannot be said to be caused by one precondition, but climate change affects aspects of extreme events, and very likely worsened some of the impacts of Harvey. [164] In a briefing, the World Meteorological Organization stated that the quantity of rainfall from Harvey had very likely been increased by climate change. The relationship between climate change and the frequency of hurricanes (or tropical cyclones) is still unclear, and is the subject of continuing research. [165]

Harvey approached Houston over sea-surface waters which were significantly above average temperatures. Warm waters provide the main source of energy for hurricanes, and increased ocean heat can result in storms being larger, more intense and longer lasting, in particular bringing greatly increased rainfall. [166] [163] Sea level rise added to the resulting problems. [164] According to officials from the Harris County Flood Control District, Harvey caused the third '500-year' flood in three years. [167] [168] [169] The National Climate Assessment states:

The recent increases in activity are linked, in part, to higher sea surface temperatures in the region that Atlantic hurricanes form in and move through. Numerous factors have been shown to influence these local sea surface temperatures, including natural variability, human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases, and particulate pollution. Quantifying the relative contributions of natural and human-caused factors is an active focus of research. [170]

Warmer air can hold more water vapor, in accordance with the Clausius–Clapeyron relation, and there has been a global increase of daily rainfall records. [164] Regional sea surface temperatures around Houston have risen around 0.5 °C (0.9 °F) in recent decades, which caused a 3–5% increase in moisture in the atmosphere. This had the effect of allowing Harvey to strengthen more than expected. [171] The water temperature of the Gulf of Mexico was above average for this time of the year, and likely to be a factor in Harvey's impact. [172] Within a week of Harvey, Hurricane Irma formed in the eastern Atlantic, due to the similar conditions involving unusually warm seawater. Some scientists fear this may be becoming a 'new normal'. Also higher sea-water temperatures can make hurricanes more devastating. [173]

The slow movement of Harvey over Texas allowed the storm to drop prolonged heavy rains on the state, as has also happened with earlier storms. [155] Harvey's stalled position was due to weak prevailing winds linked to a greatly expanded subtropical high pressure system over much of the US at the time, which had pushed the jet stream to the north. Research and model simulations have indicated an association between this pattern and human-caused climate change. [171] [174]

See also

Other tropical cyclones that made landfall in the same region of the Texas Gulf coast:


  1. A major hurricane is a hurricane that ranks as Category 3 or higher on the Saffir–Simpson scale.
  2. All damage figures in this table are in the USD amounts of their respective year.

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1998 Atlantic hurricane season hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean

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1975 Atlantic hurricane season hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean

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1979 Atlantic hurricane season hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean

The 1979 Atlantic hurricane season was the first season to include both male and female names, as well as the common six-year rotating lists of tropical cyclone names. The season officially began on June 1, and lasted until November 30. These dates conventionally delimit the period of each year when most tropical cyclones form in the Atlantic basin. It was slightly below average, with nine systems reaching tropical storm intensity. The first system, an unnumbered tropical depression, developed north of Puerto Rico on June 9. Two days later, Tropical Depression One formed and produced severe flooding in Jamaica, with 40 deaths and about $27 million (1979 USD) in damage. Tropical Storm Ana caused minimal impact in the Lesser Antilles. Hurricane Bob spawned tornadoes and produced minor wind damage along the Gulf Coast of the United States, primarily in Louisiana, while the remnants caused flooding, especially in Indiana. Tropical Storm Claudette caused extensive flooding, due to torrential rainfall. There were two deaths and damaged totaled $750 million.

Hurricane Anita Category 5 Atlantic and Pacific hurricane in 1977

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1942 Atlantic hurricane season hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean

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1933 Atlantic hurricane season hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean

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Hurricane Ella brought flooding to the Greater Antilles and Texas in September 1958. The fifth named storm and third hurricane of the annual season, Ella developed from a tropical wave located just east of the Lesser Antilles on August 30. Initially a tropical depression, it strengthened into Tropical Storm Ella six hours later. The system crossed the Leeward Islands and entered the Caribbean Sea late on August 30. Ella headed westward and by August 31, intensified into a Category 1 hurricane. Hours later, it strengthened into a Category 2 hurricane on the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale. The storm curved northwestward while south of Hispaniola and as a result, struck the Tiburon Peninsula of Haiti on September 1. Flooding in that country killed 30 people in Aux Cayes and left 3 other missing. Additionally, thousands were left homeless, about one-third of crops were washed out, and numerous cattle were killed.

1915 Galveston hurricane Category 4 Atlantic hurricane in 1915

The 1915 Galveston hurricane was a deadly hurricane that struck Leeward Islands, Hispaniola, Cuba and Texas, in mid August of the 1915 Atlantic hurricane season. Striking Galveston, Texas, 15 years after the 1900 Galveston Hurricane, its 21-ft (6.4-m) waves were slowed by the new Galveston Seawall but changed the beach structure: on August 17, the entire 300-ft (91.5–m) beach was eroded to become an offshore sandbar, later returning partially, but never the same. The 1915 storm caused a great deal of destruction in its path, leaving 275-400 people dead and $50 million in damage.

The Climate of Beaumont, Texas covers the averages and extremes in past weather seen within the city of Beaumont, Texas. The city is within the humid subtropical climate regime, and is within the Piney Woods region of eastern Texas. The area around Beaumont receives the most rainfall in the state: more than 48 inches (1,200 mm) annually. Summers in the area are usually hot and humid, due to the moisture that flows inland off of the Gulf of Mexico. Winters are usually kept mild by the warm gulf waters. Hurricanes also pose a threat to the area. Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Hurricane Rita in 2005, and Hurricane Ike in 2008 were the most recent significant storms to strike.

Hurricane Caroline Category 3 Atlantic hurricane in 1975

Hurricane Caroline was one of two tropical cyclones to affect northern Mexico during the 1975 Atlantic hurricane season. The third named storm and second hurricane of the season, Caroline developed on August 24 north of the Dominican Republic. The system crossed Cuba and briefly degenerated into a tropical wave due to land interaction. However, upon emergence into the western Caribbean Sea, it was once again designated as a tropical depression after a well-defined circulation was observed on satellite imagery. Moving towards the west-northwest, the cyclone clipped the northern portion of the Yucatán Peninsula before entering the Gulf of Mexico. Caroline was upgraded to a tropical storm on August 29 in the central Gulf of Mexico before rapid intensification began. Early on August 31, Caroline reached its peak intensity with winds of 115 mph (185 km/h), before landfall south of Brownsville, Texas with winds of 105 mph (165 km/h) shortly thereafter. After moving inland, Caroline quickly weakened and dissipated over the mountainous terrain of northeastern Mexico on September 1. There were only two deaths from Caroline, both indirect. However, there was heavy rainfall in southern Texas and Mexico, including almost 12 in (300 mm) at Port Isabel.

Hurricane Gustav Category 4 Atlantic hurricane in 2008

Hurricane Gustav was the second most destructive hurricane of the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season. The seventh tropical cyclone, third hurricane, and second major hurricane of the season, Gustav caused serious damage and casualties in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, Cuba and the United States. Gustav caused at least $8.31 billion (2008 USD) in damages.

2011 Atlantic hurricane season hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean

The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season was the second consecutive season to feature the third highest count of named storms, but most of the storms were relatively weak. Therefore, the season was tied with 1887, 1995, 2010, and the following 2012 season for the third highest number of named storms since record-keeping began in 1851. Although the season featured 19 named storms, only 7 of them intensified into hurricanes and 4 of those became major hurricanes: Irene, Katia, Ophelia, and Rina. The season officially began on June 1 and ended on November 30, dates which conventionally delimit the period during each year in which most tropical cyclones develop in the Atlantic Ocean. However, the first tropical storm of the season, Arlene, did not develop until nearly a month later. The final system, Tropical Storm Sean, dissipated over the open Atlantic on November 11.

1960 Texas tropical storm Atlantic tropical storm in 1960

The 1960 Texas tropical storm brought severe but localized flooding to southeastern Texas in June 1960. The first tropical cyclone and first tropical storm of the 1960 Atlantic hurricane season, this system developed from an area of showers and thunderstorms in the Bay of Campeche on June 22. Initially a tropical depression, it strengthened and was estimated to have reached tropical storm status on June 23. Early on the following day, the storm peaked with winds of 45 mph (75 km/h). Later that day, it made landfall near Corpus Christi, Texas, at the same intensity. The storm weakened slowly and moved across the Central United States, before dissipating over Illinois on June 29.


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Preceded by
Katrina (Currently tied)
Costliest Atlantic hurricanes on Record
Succeeded by