From the Field

2017 Hurricane Harvey: Facts, FAQs, and how to help

When Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas Aug. 25, 2017, as a Category 4 hurricane, it became the country’s first major — Category 3 or higher — hurricane since Wilma hit Florida in October 2005 and the first major hurricane to strike southern Texas since Celia in 1970. It kicked off a historically destructive 2017 storm season for the Caribbean and the southern U.S.

Causing about $125 billion in damage, Harvey ranks as the second-most costly hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland since 1900. Hurricanes Irma and Maria followed within a month of Harvey, affecting Florida, Puerto Rico, and much of the Caribbean, respectively causing $50 billion and $90 billion in damages.

“This is going to be a massive, massive cleanup process,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott told “Good Morning America” Sept. 1, about a week after Harvey hit. “People need to understand this is not going to be a short-term project. This is going to be a multi-year project for Texas to be able to dig out of this catastrophe.”

FAQs: What you need to know about Hurricane Harvey, and learn how you can help

Explore frequently asked questions about Hurricane Harvey, and learn how you can help.

How did Hurricane Harvey develop?

Harvey began Aug. 17 as a slow-moving tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico, originating from a tropical wave off the west coast of Africa on Aug. 13. Tropical Storm Harvey hit the Windward Islands Aug. 18, then weakened to a tropical wave Aug. 19.

Tropical Depression Harvey reformed Aug. 23. It grew into a Category 1 hurricane with 80-mph winds Aug. 24 and continued to gain strength as it churned toward Texas. The National Hurricane Center upgraded the storm to a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds up to 130 mph Aug. 25.

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Where and when did Harvey make landfall?

Harvey first made landfall over San Jose Island and then near Rockport, in south-central Texas, late Aug. 25 as a Category 4 hurricane, threatening millions of residents with 130-mph winds, heavy rains, and a massive storm surge that swamped coastal areas. It stalled around southern Texas for days as a weakening hurricane, producing catastrophic flash and river flooding. Harvey then downgraded to a tropical storm Aug. 26.

By Aug. 27, winds died down to as much as 40 mph, but the storm dumped a year’s-worth of rain in less than a week on Houston and much of southeastern Texas.

By Aug. 29, two flood-control reservoirs had breached, increasing water levels throughout the Houston area.

Harvey made its third and final landfall Aug. 30 near Port Arthur, Texas, and Cameron, Louisiana, bringing widespread flooding. While authorities and first responders handled as many as 10,000 rescue missions around Houston, at least 30,000 people fled to temporary shelters.

Tropical Storm Harvey was then downgraded to a tropical depression late Aug. 30, but it continued to dump massive amounts of rain on parts of eastern Texas, Louisiana, and southern Arkansas. Still alive a week after making landfall, Harvey caused abnormally high rainfall and 35-mph winds, while traveling northeast through Tennessee and Kentucky before dissipating.

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Hurricane Harvey made landfall late Friday night as a Category 4 storm. (©2017 courtesy of NOAA)
Hurricane Harvey made landfall late Friday, Aug. 25, over Rockport, Texas, as a Category 4 storm. (©2017 courtesy of NOAA)

How much damage did Harvey cause?

Causing about $125 billion in damage, Harvey ranks as the second-most costly hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland since 1900. Adjusting for inflation, only $160-billion Hurricane Katrina in 2005 caused more damage than Harvey.

Hurricanes Rita and Wilma also hit in 2005 and rank among the top 10 costliest storms. While Superstorm Sandy in 2012 was one of the most destructive and costly in U.S. history, it hit the eastern seaboard as a Category 2 storm. Hurricane Matthew in late 2016 had been downgraded to a Category 1 by the time it made landfall on the East Coast.

“The geographic area and the population affected by this horrific hurricane and flooding … is far larger than the population and geographic area of Katrina,” Abbott said on “Fox News Sunday.”

After Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, the federal government spent about $160 billion after adjusting for inflation. Sandy inflicted more than $70 billion in damages in 2012, and Matthew cost the U.S. about $10.3 billion in 2016.

With Harvey, an estimated 13 million people were affected, nearly 135,000 homes damaged or destroyed in the historic flooding, and up to a million cars were wrecked.  The death toll is at 88.

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits after the storm also jumped to a more than two-year high amid a surge in applications from Texas. Several dozen schools remained closed more than a month into the school year, pending repairs from the flooding.

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How bad was the flooding after Harvey?

The storm dumped more than 27 trillion gallons of rain over Texas, making Harvey the wettest Atlantic hurricane ever measured. Some parts of Houston received more than 50 inches of rainfall — so much that the National Weather Service had to update the colors it uses on its weather charts to properly account for it. With one-third of Houston completely flooded, the weight of the water also sank the city temporarily by two centimeters (almost an inch), according to a California geophysicist.

All of the soggy drywall, flooring, furniture, clothing and toys trashed in the clean-up effort adds up to an estimated 8 million cubic yards of garbage in Houston alone, enough to fill up the Texans’ football stadium two times over.

View satellite image of neighborhoods in Texas before and after the flooding.

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How long will it take to recover?

Texas state and local officials prioritized garbage cleanup in the months immediately after the storm, but overall recovery was slowed as resources were diverted toward Florida because of Hurricane Irma, and then Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands because of Hurricane Maria.

Since many residents lived outside the flood plain, most people affected were uninsured. Many families are struggling to get back on their feet and rebuild their homes, depending on whatever federal and local help they can get.

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How is World Vision responding?

In the immediate aftermath, our team engaged with 60 church partners and other community organizations in the affected areas to mobilize resourced from around the country. In the first three months after Harvey, we provided emergency relief supplies to about 100,000 people. World Vision has delivered 70 truckloads of supplies to partners in Houston, Corpus Christi, and Lake Charles.

Storm survivors received supplies including tents, pillows, sleeping bags, coolers, food kits, pet food, personal hygiene items, women’s toiletry kits, school supplies, toys, socks, clothes, diapers, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and latex gloves.

Getting supplies from World Vision to pass on to shelters and people in need is “a huge blessing to this community,” said Dan Worrell, operations minister for Houston Northwest Baptist Church which received one of the first truckloads of supplies from the Grand Prairie warehouse. “We’re able to distribute in a level greater than we did previously.”

 

Multiple trucks loaded with supplies have been delivered to Faith Memorial Baptist Church on Houston’s east side. “We’re glad we can set up a more localized site for our community. We’re grateful for World Vision partnering with us,” said Pastor Andrew Johnson.

Shipments contain everything from sleeping bags and tarps to diapers and Women’s Hope Kits — totes donated by Thirty-One Gifts and filled with toiletries. “Our heart in who we are is giving back and empowering women, and Hope Kits do that,” said Jill Rhea, a Dallas independent director for Thirty-One Gifts, a direct-seller of totes, purses, and accessories. “They provide hope and dignity.”

One local partner, Ecclesia Church, donated a 50,000-square-foot warehouse for World Vision to use as a central distribution hub through most of 2018. This allows us to pre-position and distribute emergency supplies more quickly and efficiently. And, as families begin repairing and rebuilding their homes, our stock of building materials on-site allows people to come and shop for what they need.

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How can I help Hurricane Harvey survivors?

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Chris Huber, Heather Klinger, and Kristy J. O’Hara of World Vision’s staff in the U.S. contributed to this article.

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