On Friday, August 26th, Hurricane Harvey made landfall in the small Texas town of Rockport. The storm devastated the area as it made its way inland to Houston, which was inundated with floods and rain, which broke all previous rainfall records for a single storm in the continental US, with 51.88 inches recorded.
Hurricane Harvey is the first major hurricane to hit the US since 2005, when Hurricane Katrina devastated the New Orleans area, striking late at night. The storm was positioned over the Houston area and the storm surge elevated Galveston Bay, where such high floodwaters would normally drain. The storm’s unwavering position, along with the storm surge blocking outflow and the storm’s lingering position over the Gulf has led to Houston streets becoming rivers. Images of people standing on their roofs amidst floods bring to mind Katrina survivors. J. Marshall Shepherd, director of atmospheric sciences at the University of Georgia has stated that, due to the orientation of the storm over both the Houston area and still the Gulf of Mexico, “you’ve just got this stream of moisture fire-hosing into the Houston area… This could go down as the worst flood disaster in U.S. history.”
Texas, positioned at the west end of the Gulf of Mexico, has been hit with many hurricanes through the years; however, the state has not experienced a category 4 hurricane since 1961, when Hurricane Carla forced half a million residents from their homes. A category 4 hurricane is defined as having sustained maximum wind speeds of at least 130 mph, which were Harvey’s exact maximum wind speeds, therefore classifying it as a category 4.
Texan refineries, which make up a large part of the United State’s domestic oil and gasoline production, have been affected; however, due to the rapid and thorough devastation of the area, no predictions can be made as to how the industry will react. Oil prices are expected to increase from this event, as they often do when storms strike the Gulf of Mexico, and gas shortages are already being reported around the Houston area, as roughly a million barrels a day of production have been shut down by the storm, as well as a quarter of the offshore drilling operations.
There were estimated to be 30 deaths as of mid-day Wednesday; however, Hurricane Harvey took a strange and unexpected turn back inland, making second landfall just over the Texas-Louisiana border. At the time of second landfall, the storm’s wind-speed was reaching maximums between 50 and 60 mph, no longer qualifying the storm as a formal hurricane. The deluge of rain that comes with the hurricane is still expected to devastate the area, with predictions as high as 20 or more inches of rain before the end.