Login Register Subscribe
Current Issue

Texas braces for Hurricane Harvey

Reprints

Hurricane Harvey is expected to make landfall early this weekend as a Category 3 hurricane with the potential to cause billions of dollars in damages, according to projections from leading catastrophe modeling firms.

Harvey is expected to make landfall as a Category 3 storm Friday night or Saturday morning near Corpus Christi, Texas, the first hurricane to strike Texas since 2008, according to AIR Worldwide, the modeler said in a statement.

The National Hurricane Center said in its 7:00 AM CDT public advisory: “On the forecast track, Harvey will make landfall on the middle Texas coast tonight or early Saturday. Harvey is then likely to meander near or just inland of the middle Texas coast through the weekend.” The advisory added that the storm’s “forward speed is expected to decrease significantly during the next couple of days.”

In its 10:00 AM CDT public advisory, the center said the outer rainband from Harvey is swiping the lower and middle Texas coasts and that “catastrophic flooding” is expected across portions of southern and southeastern Texas. “Tropical storm conditions are likely just beginning in portions of the hurricane and tropical storm warning areas. Hurricane conditions are likely to begin within the hurricane warning area later today or tonight,” the center said.

Forecasts from catastrophe modelers show the potential for extensive damage.

“Harvey brings the threat of strong hurricane winds, life-threatening storm surge, and days of heavy rain — which could cause dangerous inland flooding — to Texas, Louisiana, and possibly Mexico,” AIR said in its analysis.

Some 12 to 20 inches of rain are expected to fall through Wednesday in many areas, and totals could reach as high as 30 inches in some locations, according to AIR.

Current projections, however, do not show Harvey exceeding Category 3 strength, according to CoreLogic, based in Irvine, California. The catastrophe modeler says that roughly 230,000 homes along the Texas coast are at risk of storm damage, at a collective rebuilding cost nearing $40 billion, based on Category 3 projections.

The heavy rain, which could worsen if the storm stalls over land, “could result in severe and dangerous inland flooding for parts of Texas, southwestern Louisiana, and even northeastern Mexico,” AIR said, adding inland cities, including Houston and San Antonio, Texas, could be hit by heavy rainfall, with the threat to New Orleans potentially more serious due to flooding that occurred there earlier this month when the city’s pumping system experienced widespread failure.

Corpus Christi, Texas, and smaller towns along the coast may be vulnerable to potential storm surge as well as wind, according to Ben Brookes, Risk Management Solutions Inc.’s vice president of capital markets solutions, writing in a blog post. “Our analysis also suggests industrial clusters in the region could face wind and flood damage.”

The National Hurricane Center said in its advisory that “preparations along the middle Texas Coast should be rushed to completion this morning” and that “conditions are expected to deteriorate throughout the day.”

The storm’s rapid intensification “could impede evacuation and recovery efforts, both because of the short preparation time for this major hurricane and because some residents chose to stay in place when it was projected to make landfall as a weaker storm,” AIR said.

The Hurricane Center’s bulletin included a storm surge warning in effect from Port Mansfield to High Island, Texas; a storm surge watch from south of Port Mansfield to the mouth of the Rio Grande River; a hurricane warning from Port Mansfield to Sargent, Texas; a tropical storm warning from north of Sargent to High Island and south of Port Mansfield to the mouth of the Rio Grande; a hurricane watch from South of Port Mansfield to the mouth of the Rio Grande; and a tropical storm watch from south of the mouth of the Rio Grande to Boca de Catan, Mexico.

Over half of the commercial buildings in Texas and Louisiana are steel and concrete, according to AIR, and more than 40% of buildings in the U.S. Gulf Coast region meet Flood Insurance Rate Map, or FIRM, standards set in 1980 that dictate buildings must be elevated above base flood elevation, as defined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to AIR.