Houston Enters Hurricane Season with 261,103 Homes in Surge Zone

HOUSTON – (By Dale King, Realty News Report) – To many Houstonians, today begins a six-month period marked by dreadful recollections. Nearly four years after a gruesome storm named Harvey decimated Houston neighborhoods with damage, flooding and death, the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season begins.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) projects the season will bring a total of 13 to 20 named storms, six to 10 hurricanes and three to five major hurricanes, defined as Category 3 and higher, enough to raise concerns among residents of the Gulf and Atlantic coasts.

In 2020, the United States was the ultimate destination for a record high of 30 named storms over the course of hurricane season.

CoreLogic, which presents data to manage growth opportunities and deal with risk, has again published its seasonal storm analysis. The 2021 report offers insight into potential property risk to single-family and multifamily residences from hurricane-driven wind and storm surge. “With this knowledge in hand, we can all better protect the homes, families and businesses we love,” the text says.

31 Million Homes at Risk from Hurricanes

Nationally, nearly 8 million homes are at-risk of hurricane storm surge, CoreLogic said. And more than 31 million homes are at risk of moderate or extreme risk exposure to hurricane winds.

Thee CoreLogic report targeted hotspots during hurricane season – Houston among them. All these regions have incurred devastating storms in the past. CoreLogic offers data to help mitigate potential impacts this year and allay concerns for the upcoming season.

The report arrives at a time when memories of Houston’s mega-storm are vivid. Category 4 Harvey hit Texas on Aug. 25, 2017, caused $125 billion in damage. It dumped 1 trillion gallons of rain on Houston in four days, causing extreme flooding. Sixty-eight people died from direct storm effects and another 35 people died from related causes, such as car accidents. Thirty-two thousand people were forced out of their homes and into shelters.

This year’s CoreLogic report list areas most likely to be impacted by storm surge, which took a heavy toll on Houston during and after Harvey.

According to Scientific Americanmagazine, storm surge is often the deadliest aspect of tropical systems. Hurricane Katrina’s surge drowned New Orleans. Hurricane Sandy’s surge inundated New York City and New Jersey. Harvey’s storm surge was not nearly as high, yet water piled up along certain portions of the Texas coast.

Meteorologist Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground, said this is called “compound flooding.” With feet of rain, the rivers are so swollen that they are rushing toward the Gulf coast, but the storm surge is coming inland as those rivers try to flow seaward. The two surges meet at the coast “and the water piles up from both sides,” Masters said. The land’s shape and elevation at any location can make the compound flooding worse. In Galveston, for example, the sea surge was about three feet, but the actual water surge was about nine feet.

Houston Ranks No. 8

CoreLogic’s report ranks Houston as Number 8 among the top 15 metros where multiple thousands of single-family homes are at risk. While New York City, Miami, Tampa and New Orleans top that list, Houston has 261,103 single-family dwellings in the storm surge target area, which would cost some $57 billion to rebuild.

Houston single-family dwellings in the wind damage risk cone total almost 2 million, with a replacement value of just over $492 billion.

The list of top 15 metros where many thousands of multi-family dwellings are in the storm surge and wind damage zone does not include Houston, but certainly caution is advised for apartment residents.

Many metros are on both lists, among them, New York City and Miami, which also lead with the most endangered multi-family residences, with Boston, third, then Tampa, Fort Myers and New Orleans, the community closest on the list to Houston. No Texas metros are on that danger register, with focuses largely on New York, Florida and New England, as far north as Boston and Providence.

This year’s CoreLogic report also focuses on climate change which “continues to reshape the way storms behave.” It notes that “the risk in these hurricane-prone areas will continue to increase.”

Based on data from NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, over the past four decades, we’ve seen a 70 to 90% increase every decade in total inflation-adjusted losses from weather events in the United States —and this trend isn’t slowing down.

The economic impact of hurricanes can also be severe. While Harvey caused heavy physical damage in Houston, it also harmed the economy. Here are just two examples from the CoreLogic report:

  • In August of 2017, the mortgage delinquency rate in Houston was 6.2%. It soared to 10.9% by October, an increase of 4.7 percentage points.
  • In Houston, post-Harvey, the housing inventory was down by 23% even five months afterward.

The report notes that many escalations in storm threat are driven by population migrations from expensive metropolitan areas to high-risk, more affordable coastal areas. These regions are typically low-lying, hurricane prone and especially subject to the climate-related factors at play including sea level rise, extreme rainfall events and possible increases in hurricane intensity.

CoreLogic concludes that preparation is an important mitigating factor for natural disasters like hurricanes. “Understanding the risk to help accelerate recovery is the key to resilience. For the entire housing ecosystem, the focus of concern is shifting from loss adjudication to loss prevention and avoidance.”

“While climate change and increased customer expectations create an unpredictability in how insurers, lenders and the housing finance ecosystem can offer their products, those not being proactive in changing processes and technology can easily fall behind.”

“By leveraging data, they can not only see through the lens of risk management and loss prevention, but also help customers improve their own experience. To help mitigate the effects of hurricanes and other natural disasters, it is important to support community resilience goals and understand the risk faced by those impacted.”

June 1, 2021 Realty News Report Copyright 2021

For more about Texas development, check out the book Houston 2020: America’s Boom Town – An Extreme Close Up  by Ralph Bivins. Available on Amazon  http://tiny.cc/4a2g6y 

Copyright Photo Caption: Hurricane Harvey’s rains in 2017 caused massive flooding in Houston. Photo taken Aug. 27, 2017. Photo Credit: Ralph Bivins, Copyright Realty News Report, 2021.

File: Houston Enters Hurricane Season

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