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Houston and Hurricane Harvey: A call to action

June 21, 2018

Through extensive interviews, this PERC study identifies lessons learned from the 2017 Houston floods and provides recommendations for enhancing flood resilience - before the next event occurs.

PERC Houston Report

Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Rockport, Texas on August 25, 2017 as a Category 4 storm. Over the next four days, Harvey dropped more than 40 inches of rain over eastern Texas, causing catastrophic flooding. The resulting floods inundated hundreds of thousands of homes, displaced more than 30,000 people and prompted more than 17,000 rescues. Total damage from the hurricane is estimated at $125 billion1, making it the second-costliest tropical cyclone on record after Hurricane Katrina.

In collaboration with Zurich, ISET-International (a nonprofit organization committed to building resilience) and the American Red Cross Global Disaster Preparedness Center launched this Post-Event Review Capability (PERC) study focused specifically on the Houston floods that resulted from Hurricane Harvey. The study is part of a wider series of PERC event analyses that the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance has been conducting since 2013.

The study provides recommendations for enhancing flood resilience. 

Based on interviews with impacted households and businesses, and with people involved in risk reduction, response and recovery at the city, county and state levels, the study identifies lessons learned from the floods and provides recommendations for enhancing flood resilience. We believe that these recommendations can be applied not only in Houston, but across the U.S. and even globally.

The trends are clear. Impacts from disasters are getting worse. Yet after a disaster, there is rarely the time to learn what happened and what could be done better next time, although we know that the recovery period is a key window of opportunity to take action to reduce future risk and ensure that disasters will not repeat in a similar way.

PERCs generate actionable recommendations for reducing future damages right when they are needed most. The aim is to answer questions related to various aspects of flood resilience, including flood risk management, catastrophe intervention and recovery. The methodology looks at what has worked well, shares best practices, and identifies opportunities where there is room for further improvements.

This report follows a dozen PERC studies conducted over the past five years and adds to the global insights gathered from previous big flood events. It also complements a prior study conducted in the U.S. following flooding from intense rainfall and high tides – the South Carolina floods of 2015.

1 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office for Coastal Management. Fast Facts: Hurricane Costs.

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