The Damage Estimates for Hurricanes Irma and Harvey

The Damage Estimates for Hurricanes Irma and Harvey

The Damage Estimates for Hurricanes Irma and Harvey

The final total of damage estimates for hurricanes Harvey and Irma may not be completed for years. While both were Category 4 storms, Texas suffered the worst flooding damage with Florida getting the hardest hit by the hurricane force winds from its southern tip all the way to the panhandle. Both the type of damage that has to be repaired and the cost of those repairs will be different.

First, let’s look at Harvey’s effect.

Unlike Irma, Harvey poured rain on southern Texas for more than 4 consecutive days. That meant that residents could not return to assess the damage to their homes and property for a week or longer. In terms of damage, the water was able to seep into almost every nook and cranny in a home. This dramatically increased the losses for everyone affected because very little of the remaining property and possessions would be salvageable.

As of today, there have been 72 people who have died as a result of the storm. Some occurred during the storm, such as the police officer who drowned in his car while driving to his shift. Others drowned because they did not or were not able to evacuate.

When it comes to estimating financial damage, there are several types of costs to be included in the discussion. There is the direct damage to the State, then the cost of cleanup and repair, and finally the cost of replacing all the property that was destroyed or cannot be salvaged. Current estimations of financial losses range between $80 and $100 billion. That estimate is the cost of the damage, not the cost to repair the damage. Governor Abbott of Texas extends that estimate to $150 and $180 billion. These estimates also do not include the cost of the use of the military in rescue operations.

35 counties in southern Texas have reported damage from Harvey. In the reporting counties, a wide variety of homes, including mobile and single and multi-family structures, were either damaged or destroyed. The total number is currently more than 210,000. Houston and the surrounding county area alone has about 136,000 homes damaged.

It is a mistake to measure the damage merely in financial costs. There is also a human price that is being paid as well. Of the more than 35,000 people who sought refuge from the storm in shelters, about two-thirds are still living there. Many of those people don’t have a home or apartment to go back to, and may have to live in the shelters or temporary housing for a year or longer.

Irma left its own swath of destruction.

The damage Irma caused spread across the entire state of Florida. The biggest casualty of the storm was the power grid, as more than 80 percent of the state was without electrical power. As first responders and government agencies continue to bring the state back to a habitable condition, the current estimates of damage are approaching the $100 billion mark.

One easily overlooked economic impact of Irma is the effect on Florida’s orange harvest. Initial estimates are that at least 10 percent of the crop is lost, and the numbers can go higher. The total loss of fruits and vegetables is estimated at 50 to 70 percent of Florida’s total crop. That means the cost of fruits and vegetables will cost more to American consumers.

The Florida Keys has a reported 25 percent of its residential homes completely destroyed. An estimated 50 percent of all the homes have sustained major damage. The State has ordered that no access be allowed to residents because the situation is too dangerous, so the actual damage in the Keys is yet to be revealed.

In human cost, at least 26 residents are known to have died from storm, and the high heat and humidity Irma left in its wake caused another 6 deaths in Florida. Georgia has reported 3 deaths as a result of Irma. What is sure to have an additional economic impact is the expected increase in jobless claims by Florida residents, which also will result in definite productivity losses.

Florida’s major airports have been damaged, hindering recovery efforts and costing the state millions in lost tourist and travel revenues. Like Texas, the U.S. military has committed some of its resources, including a Navy aircraft carrier to assist with rescue operations.

The weeks to come will further clarify the damage numbers, but 4 days after Irma left residents and government agencies are still trying to get a large number of residents supplied with electricity.


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