ISET to Research Business Recovery and Resilience After Hurricane Harvey Flooding in Houston

Blog based on report by Karen MacClune

ISET, in collaboration with the Zurich Flood Resilience Program and the American Red Cross, is conducting a post-event review (PERC) of the Hurricane Harvey flooding in Houston in August/September 2017. With a focus on businesses, we are looking for examples of where Houston was resilient and how disaster resilience for businesses, communities, and the city as a whole can be improved.  Through this engagement, we will be sharing best practices and recommendations with any interested audience.

Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Rockport, Texas on August 25, 2017 as a Category 4 Hurricane. The storm stalled near the Texas coastline, which caused it to rapidly weaken but also to drop torrential amounts of rainfall over the region. In a four-day period, many areas received more than 40 inches of rain as the system slowly meandered over eastern Texas and adjacent waters, causing catastrophic flooding.

(Above: Soldiers with the Texas Army National Guard moved through flooded Houston streets as floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey continued to rise.)

Harvey is the wettest tropical cyclone on record in the United States. The resulting floods inundated hundreds of thousands of homes, displaced more than 30,000 people, and prompted more than 17,000 rescues. Hurricane Harvey is also the costliest tropical cyclone on record, nearly doubling the record set by Hurricane Katrina, and is the second-costliest disaster from natural hazards worldwide, behind only the 2011 Japan earthquake and  tsunami. Total damage from the hurricane is estimated at $198 billion.

 

The impacts from this event on businesses was particularly notable. The Gulf Coast is home to about  90 percent of U.S. capacity to turn out base plastics, the building blocks for a wide range of consumer and industrial goods. U.S. industrial output plunged 0.9 percent in August, the most in eight years, mostly because of Hurricane Harvey’s impacts on the oil refining, plastics and chemicals industries. Impacts are expected to continue well beyond the immediate event.

(Above: Petrochemical refineries in Metro-Houston, Texas)

The Post Event Review Capability (PERC) methodology used for this study has been applied in post-flood events settings in Nepal, Peru, the U.S.A, and Europe. In Houston, ISET and the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance, working in collaboration with the American Red Cross, will conduct discussions and interviews with local residents, businesses, water authorities and water experts, and local, state and national government entities to understand what happened. We will analyze what aspects of the flood were most problematic, and where individuals (including residents, businesses, government employees, and responders), systems, and legal and social norms proved to be flood resilient. Our researchers will also identify aspects of flood response that did not work well, and suggest opportunity for building increased flood resilience. The goal will be to draw out broader lessons and identify potential for solid, scalable, replicable action, especially in the business and supply chain sector.

This project has been made possible by funding from the International Federation of Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies and the Z Zurich Foundation, and is a collaboration under the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance. Collaborators on this project include the American Red Cross and the Global Disaster Preparedness Center (GDPC).

Watch for the Hurricane Harvey Post-Event Review Capability (PERC) report this summer. Meanwhile, we invite you to read about similar post-flooding resilience analysis of events in Nepal, Peru, the U.S.A. and Europe: www.zurich.com/flood-resilience

You can read more about ISET’s Post-Event Review Capability (PERC) and its application in Peru, Nepal, and the U.S.A. here:

The PERC Manual Learning From Disasters to Build Resilience: A Simple Guide to Conducting a Post Event Review

Learning from El Niño Costero 2017: Opportunities for Building Resilience in Peru

A Post-Event Review of the October 2015 Floods in South Carolina: A Deep Dive into the Columbia and Charleston Areas 

Urgent case for recovery: what we can learn from the August 2014 Karnali River floods in Nepal

 

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