Preparedness & Recovery

Tracking Harvey’s Toll: ‘This Is the Costliest and Worst Natural Disaster in American History’

As much as 27 percent of Houston’s multifamily, office, retail and industrial real estate might be out of service from flooding.

by Paul O’Donnell, The Dallas Morning News / September 1, 2017
Eleazar Garcia and Nancy Garcia stand outside their flooded home near Lumberton, Texas, on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017. TNS/Marcus Yam

(TNS) - AccuWeather is out with the highest estimate yet of Harvey’s potential price tag. The weather forecasting service now expects damage to reach $190 billion, or a full 1 percent of U.S. economic output.

“This is the costliest and worst natural disaster in American history,” said Joel Myers, Accuweather’s founder, president and chairman.

“Business leaders and the Federal Reserve, major banks, insurance companies should begin to factor in the negative impact this catastrophe will have on business, corporate earnings and employment,” he said. “Parts of Houston, the United States’ fourth-largest city, will be uninhabitable for weeks and possibly months due to water damage, mold, disease-ridden water and all that will follow this 1,000-year flood.”

Most other economists have pegged the damage at $75 billion to $90 billion.


As much as 27 percent of Houston’s multifamily, office, retail and industrial real estate might be out of service from flooding, reports CoStar Group Inc. That adds up to as much as $55 billion in commercial property.


The epic storm is expected to shave 0.3 to 1.2 percentage points off the nation’s economic growth for the July-September quarter. “Looking ahead, the impacts of Hurricane Harvey are weighing heavy in our calculations of real consumer spending in the third and fourth quarters,” said IHS Markit Executive Director Chris Christopher Jr. “Harvey has essentially shut down retail spending for the southeast Texas region.”


Houston’s renowned medical centers could see a significant drop in patients, especially for outpatient and elective procedures. “The financial impact of lost patient volume could linger for many months or even years,” says Moody’s Analytics.


FEMA estimates it’ll receive 900,000 requests for disaster assistance. The Small Business Administration’s Fort Worth office, the nation’s disaster loan servicing headquarters, expects to staff up to 1,750 workers there.

Numbers of the day: 984 & 5,800

984: The number of price gouging complaints fielded by the Texas Attorney General’s office between last Friday and Thursday afternoon.

5,800: The number of passengers on three Carnival cruise ships returning to Galveston on Friday and Saturday after being diverted to New Orleans during the storm. The ships carried about 12,000 passengers combined, but many chose to disembark in New Orleans.

(Staff writers Jill Cowan and Conor Shine contributed.)


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