Effects of Hurricane Harvey on Houston Real Estate
Hurricane Harvey History
Hurricane Harvey made history for several reasons. It began as a slow moving tropical storm on August 17, 2017 in the Gulf of Mexico. It increased in size and intensity to make landfall over the San Jose Island on the Texas coast as a category 4 hurricane on August 25th. After landfall, it moved over the small coastal town of Rockport causing heavy damage with 130-mph winds and heavy rain.
Unlike other hurricanes however, Harvey stalled and did not move inland and then quickly dissipate as it moves further inland gradually losing its wind and heavy rains. Unfortunately, Harvey stalled around southern Texas for several days after landfall on August 25th. It remained a weakening hurricane, which produced flash floods and river flooding. Harvey was downgraded to a tropical storm on August 26th.
As the remnants of Harvey moved more easterly over the next few days, the rains generally were confirmed to the Houston metro area. Though by this time the winds had died down to less than 40 mph, the rainfall totals were breaking all records. By August 29th, four days after official landfall, Hurricane Harvey had dumped well over 60 inches of rain on parts of the Houston area – well over the yearly rainfall total of 50 inches in a normal year.
Harvey then moved slightly back into the Gulf of Mexico, regaining some strength and made its final landfall on August 30th near Port Arthur, Texas, and Cameron, Louisiana. It was then downgraded to a tropical depression, but continued dropping large amounts of rain in eastern Texas, Louisiana, and southern Arkansas as it continued to move northeasterly into Tennessee and Kentucky before finally dissipating.
Effects of Hurricane Harvey
The effects of Hurricane Harvey were devastating. But they were particularly damaging in three general areas of Texas; South Central Texas (the landfall area around the coastal towns of Rockport and Fulton), the Houston metro area and the city of Port Arthur.
Though most of the damage in the Rockport area was wind related, damage in the Houston and Port Arthur areas were generally water and flooding damage. And though both cities are accustomed to large amounts of rain (both are in what is referred to as a “Humid Subtropical” climate), no amount of flood control can contain 50 to 60 inches of rain falling over a two to three day period.
As the result of the heavy rains, rivers, bayous and flood control dams became full and overflowed into neighborhoods, offices and retail areas. As of 2018, it is estimated that Hurricane Harvey costs over $125 billion in damages – the second most expensive hurricane in U.S. history.
Houston Real Estate Effects From Hurricane Harvey
In the Houston area, it is estimated that Hurricane Harvey damaged 204,000 homes, of which more than 3/4 were located outside of the 100-year flood plain. More than likely, most of those homeowners did not have flood insurance. Though not all subdivisions and developments in and around Houston area flooded, there were areas that were more affected than others.
When searching for a home to buy in the Houston area, it is important to work with a qualified real estate agent that knows the area and is familiar with any flooding history. Unfortunately, older flood maps are of no value as most homes that were flooded were not located in existing flood plains.
There are, however, some Internet tools that might can be used to explore what neighborhoods or homes were flooded during Hurricane Harvey. Note, however, that overhead neighborhood photos can be deceiving. The photos may show water in the streets, but homes are usually a few feet higher than the street. So it is possible that some homes streets and yards may have flooded, but the actual inside of the home did not.
Below are some real estate resources for researching Hurricane Harvey flooding: