It’s been one year since Hurricane Harvey hovered over the Houston region and rained a deluge of more than 50 inches in four days, causing a chaos for emergency management.
The storm that killed 36 people was unusual — it was trapped between two masses of high pressure that held it in place over the region. According to meteorologist Jeff Masters, interviewed by Scientific American as the storm continued, Hurricane Harvey was dropping so much water on southeastern Texas that the storm actually pulled that water back up into itself, and dumped it again. He said that the only other storm like this that he could recall was Hurricane Mitch in 1998, which killed 7,000 people in Honduras.
The heroics of many first responders, the Coast Guard, citizens with makeshift rescue tools and others kept the death toll surprisingly low for the epic, unexpected flooding. However, thousands are still struggling in the aftermath.
Disaster Recovery Priorities
The Harris County Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management recently released a statement that Hurricane Harvey was the most extreme rain event in U.S. history with more than 300,000 vehicles and upwards of 160,000 homes and businesses damaged at a cost, based on current projections, to exceed $125 billion.
The numbers associated with public health and medical services for Hurricane Harvey by the responding Texas Department of State Health Services were recently released — $34.8 million:
— EMTF6 (@EMTF6) August 21, 2018
Houston’s Housing and Community Development department is currently processing more than 10,000 applications for home repairs, Director Tom McCasland recently told Texas Monthly.
Our priorities rest on helping communities recover and backing flood control projects to make our county more resilient,” said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, who has been criticized for prioritizing development over flood control, according to the story.
Nevertheless, the county has proposed a $2.5 billion bond vote to finance recovery from relief for destroyed homes to construction that enhances flood control.
The country reports the federal government has provided:
- $800 million in housing and other disaster related expenses
- $260 million for public assistance projects
- $1.1 billion in grants to fund various Harris County recovery projects
For the 160,000 damaged homes and businesses, the county reports:
- $214 million will be used to help rebuild and repair single-family homes
- $119 million has been allotted for the the construction of new single-family homes
- $204.5 million will be used to assist repair or replacement of damaged multi-family housing projects and affordable rental projects
- $200 million will be used to purchase homes that have flooded throughout Harris county
Government is Partnering on Disaster Recovery Management
Previously, the Department of Housing & Urban Development helped fund recovery grants through Enterprise Community Partners. The Hurricane Community Recovery Fund provided $1 million for urgent needs and technical assistance to nonprofit organizations in Harris County, as well as other regions affected by the 2017 hurricane season. The HEART program, created by the Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation and Enterprise Community Partners, is now providing grants up to $50,000 and technical assistance to nonprofits providing housing assistance to families displaced or affected by Hurricane Harvey.
In addition, the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, established by Emmett and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and managed by the Greater Houston Community Foundation, has distributed more than $110.5 million dollars to more than 100 local non-profit organizations.
These groups, like Project Comeback, are meeting needs that local and federal efforts can’t get to or haven’t gotten to yet with recovery work generated in 2015, 2016 and Harvey in 2017. In March, the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) announced it is collaborating with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Texas Division of Emergency Management and Texas Health and Human Services to administer a pilot disaster case management program for 24 months.
“The opportunity to expand the usual approach for FEMA-funded disaster case management in Texas will allow both the state and the voluntary community to increase their capacity to continue to respond and support Texans as they recover from Hurricane Harvey,” said Greg Forrester, president and CEO of National VOAD in a prepared statement.
FEMA’s funding for the program expands capacity and extends the length of time National VOAD can provide disaster case management services to the more than 12,000 households in need of recovery support that it is engaged with.
Learn more about disaster recovery and emergency preparedness: