Why Hurricane Harvey Could Be the Most Expensive US Natural Disaster To Date

As the coast of Texas continues to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, experts have been trying to determine how much the repairs are going to cost. The shocking answer is that the total will likely exceed the cost of repairs from Hurricane Katrina. More specifically, in 2005, the US government spent about $120.5 billion to help the New Orleans area after Hurricane Katrina. But in early September of 2017, the Governor of Texas estimated the state might need about $180 billion from the US government, making Hurricane Harvey even more expensive than Hurricane Katrina. So why is that? Check out the many reasons for the extreme costs of rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey.

More Homes to Rebuild

One of the reasons rebuilding will cost so much is the sheer number of houses in Houston. After all, the area is the fourth largest city in the US since it is home to more than two million people. That means more homes were affected by this hurricane than any in the past, as more than 40,000 houses were lost. There are also several hospitals, schools, and other important buildings that will need to be repaired or entirely rebuilt, which alone will cost millions of dollars.

Newer Homes

Another reason for the extreme cost of rebuilding is the high number of new homes. This means there was more concrete and too little exposed soil, making it more likely that the excess water would simply sit on the surface rather than be absorbed by the ground. And since there was such high demand for more development in the Houston area, many houses were constructed in zones where they really shouldn’t be located—including flood zones. In fact, many neighborhoods back up to large dams that overflowed after Hurricane Harvey. And yet only about 20 percent of the Texas residents with storm damage have flood insurance, which means most will have to rely on public funds to rebuild.

More Extreme Weather

Though the winds in Hurricane Harvey were about the same as other category 5 hurricanes in the past, the rainfall was worse, causing more flooding. Some Texas cities received more than 50 inches of rain. Compare this to Hurricane Katrina, which dumped closer to 10 inches of rain on New Orleans. The increase in rain is likely due to the slightly higher temperature of the Gulf of Mexico, which was anywhere from 2 to 7 degrees warmer than usual. The result was more rain, since higher temperatures allow the atmosphere to hold in more moisture.

Of course, the costs of this hurricane are still being totaled and might exceed the estimate as more damage is discovered. Fortunately, Hurricane Harvey did not come with nearly the death toll Hurricane Katrina did, as it seems to have been handled better. But as Houston residents work on rebuilding their community, the US has been gearing up for another category 5 hurricane, this time in Florida. Hurricane Irma has already caused damage to numerous buildings and homes in the Caribbean, and now Florida residents are bracing for impact, so there’s a chance this storm’s damage could be worse than even Hurricane Harvey. We can only hope it’s handled as well or better, and that the homeowners have flood insurance to help deal with repair costs.

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