How Much Destruction Did Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma Cause?
Homeowners, emergency responders, and insurance companies are taking stock of the damage from Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. In just a couple of short weeks, the two storms tore through Texas and Florida, respectively, resulting in dozens of fatalities and billions of dollars in property damage.
How much damage did the storms cause?
Both Category 4 hurricanes saw winds as high as 130 miles per hour upon landfall. The hurricanes also brought along heavy rains and floods.
Economists are still determining just how much damage Harvey and Irma caused. Moody’s Analytics estimates that the total ranges from $150 billion to $200 billion for both hurricanes—comparable to the costs of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005.
Other firms place the damages higher. Factoring in property and infrastructure damage, high fuel prices, crop losses, increases in unemployment rates, and disruption to business, AccuWeather estimates that the storms cost a total of $290 billion.
However, those figures say nothing of the storms’ human toll. The winds, rains, and floods from Harvey resulted in at least 70 deaths in Texas. Spread across the United States and the Caribbean, Irma directly caused at least 81 confirmed fatalities thus far, according to Reuters. In Florida, a nursing home lost power and air conditioning, leading to eight additional deaths indirectly caused by Irma.
How many properties did the hurricanes affect?
U.S. Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert initially estimated that Harvey’s devastation affected around 100,000 homes. Approximately 103,000 people in Texas have been approved for emergency assistance, after approximately 120,000 people were rescued or evacuated from the state.
A Reuters analysis found that at least $23 billion of property in Harrison and Galveston Counties had been affected by flooding following Hurricane Harvey, or a total of 30,000 properties. However, this number reflects the value of the properties—not the estimates for damage.
According to Risk Management Solutions (RMS), Harvey caused between $25 billion and $35 billion in insured losses. Combined with uninsured losses, however, RMS estimates the total damage to be between $70 billion and $90 billion. That figure includes $7 billion to $10 billion in losses for the National Flood Insurance Program.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott places Harvey damage between $150 billion and $180 billion—a steep increase compared to the cost of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which amounted to what was then a record $110 billion.
Other estimates place Irma’s destruction at around $50 billion in the U.S. alone, with several billion dollars more damage throughout the Caribbean.
Between Harvey and Irma, Black Knight Financial Services said that as many as 300,000 borrowers could become delinquent on their mortgage loans due to the financial setbacks that accompany natural disasters.
What’s next for Texas and Florida?
Cleanup efforts could take months, especially for property owners who experienced flooding. Removing water and mold requires special equipment and safety gear. Most homes with severe flooding must be gutted to remove mold-damaged drywall.
Debris outdoors may also take a long time to clear. Emergency crews—and, in one case, a chainsaw-wielding nun—are working to remove downed trees, property debris, and other hazards.
Throughout the south, emergency managers and public safety officials are using tools like aerial imagery to assess damage and aid victims. Those in emergency response need to know which areas were most at risk in order to rescue survivors or deliver assistance.
By now, most property owners should have contacted their insurance companies to begin the claims process. Even if they lost their policy numbers or paperwork in the floods, they can still get in touch with their property insurance carriers and file a claim.
Insurance companies, meanwhile, are using aerial imagery to see the affected properties and determine payouts. EagleView is working with insurance carriers like Allstate to survey the damage not just with fixed-wing aircraft but with drones as well.
EagleView President Rishi Daga spoke to Inc. about post-event drone usage. “There are not enough adjusters to cover the damaged properties and drones are helping,” he explained. “Our vision is that no [claims adjuster] has to go on premise, we can collect the data with airplanes and drones and process the data with our software, and send the reports to adjusters’ computers.”
Meanwhile, millions of people still need aid. AEP Texas has completed most power restoration work as of last week, but this interactive map shows that millions in Florida are still without power.
Monetary donations go a long way, but organizations are also looking for other items, such as food, water, diapers, and other essentials. Those who want to donate should check in with local charities to see what they need or review these suggestions for giving.
When we all come together, we can help speed up recovery efforts. EagleView is keeping Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma victims in our thoughts, and we’re working around the clock to help insurance companies, emergency responders, and other vital services with relief efforts.