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We Looked into the Effects of Hurricane Harvey and Here’s What We Found

We Looked into the Effects of Hurricane Harvey and Here’s What We Found thumbnail

Unless you’ve been away from a TV, computer or smartphone for the past week, you’ve likely seen scores of pictures and videos of the unprecedented devastation that Hurricane Harvey has brought to South Texas and Louisiana. As a Texan by way of Canada, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the human and economic impact of this storm, one of the worst natural disasters to strike the U.S. in recorded history.

Below are some key data points and estimates that help contextualize the severity of Harvey and its aftermath.

$503 Billion

In a previous Frank Talk, “11 Reasons Why Everyone Wants to Move to Texas,” I shared with you that the Lone Star State would be the 12th-largest economy in the world if it were its own country—which it initially was before joining the Union in 1845. Following California, it’s the second-largest economy in the U.S. A huge contributor to the state economy is the Houston-Woodlands-Sugar Land area, which had a gross domestic product (GDP) of $503 billion in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Not only does this make it the fourth-largest metropolitan area by GDP in the U.S., but its economy is equivalent to that of Sweden, which had a GDP of $511 billion in 2016.

Hurricane Harvey

1-in-1,000 Years

The amount of rain that was dumped on parts of Southeast Texas set a new record of 51.88 inches, breaking the former record of 48 inches set in 1978. But now we believe it exceeds that of any other flood event in the continental U.S. of the past 1,000 years. That’s according to a new analysis by the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies and Dr. Shane Hubbard, a researcher with the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Hubbard’s conclusion required the use of statistical metrics since rainfall and flood data go back only 100 years or so, but the visual below might help give you a better idea of just how rare and exceptional Harvey really is.

Hurricane Harvey named a 1000 year flood event

$190 Billion

According to one estimate, Hurricane Harvey could end up being the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. Analysts with Risk Management Solutions (RMS) believe economic losses could run between $70 billion and $90 billion, with a majority of the losses due to uninsured property. This is a conservative estimate compared to AccuWeather, which sees costs running as high as $190 billion, or the combined dollar amounts of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. If so, this would represent a negative 1 percent impact on the nation’s economy.

500,000 Cars and Trucks

The wind and rains damaged more than just houses, schools, refineries and factories. According to Cox Automotive, which controls Kelley Blue Book, and other automotive businesses, as many as half a million cars and trucks could have been rendered inoperable because of the flooding. That figure’s double the number of vehicles that were destroyed during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. What this means, of course, is that auto dealerships are going to have their work cut out for them once the waters recede and insurers start cutting some checks. Buyers can likely expect to see a huge premium on used cars.


Most people know that Texas is oil country. What they might not know is that it’s also the nation’s number one gasoline-producing state, accounting for nearly a quarter of U.S. output, as of August. In addition, the Lone Star State leads the nation in wind-powered generation capacity, natural gas production and lignite coal production, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

600,000 Barrels a Day

The largest oil refinery in the U.S. belongs to Motiva Enterprises, wholly controlled by Saudi Aramco, the biggest energy company in the world. Located in Port Arthur, about 110 miles east of Houston, Motiva is capable of refining up to 603,000 barrels of crude a day. As floodwaters gradually filled the facility, the decision was made last Wednesday to shut it down completely, and as of Friday morning, there was no official timetable as to when operations might begin again, according to the Houston Business Journal. The consequences will likely reverberate throughout the energy sector for some time.

5 largest oil refineries impacted by hurricane Harvey
Motiva isn’t the only refinery that was affected, of course. As much as 31 percent of total U.S. refining capacity has either been taken offline or reduced dramatically because of Harvey, according to CNBC. The Houston area alone, known as the energy capital of the world, is capable of refining about 2.7 million barrels of crude a day, or 14 percent of the nation’s capacity.

$2.50 a Gallon

As of last Friday morning, gas prices in Texas had surged to $2.33 a gallon on average, more than a two-year high, according to In the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, prices at some pumps are reportedly near $5 a gallon. By Monday, prices had spiked even more, to $2.50 a gallon.

US dollar tracks trumps favorability down
With concerns that a gas shortage might hit the state, panicked Texas consumers lined up outside numerous stations, sometimes for miles, to drain them dry. By 5:00 on Thursday, the 7-Eleven next door to U.S. Global headquarters was serving diesel only.

54 Million Passengers

The Houston Airport System is one of the busiest in the world, with the total number of passengers enplaned and deplaned standing at roughly 54 million, as of April 2017. Flights at the city’s two largest airports, Bush Intercontinental and Hobby, were suspended Sunday, September 27, with more than 900 passengers stranded between the two. Commercial traffic resumed on Wednesday, though service was limited. According to Bloomberg, United Airlines, which has a major hub at Bush Intercontinental, was scheduling only three arrivals and three departures a day.

US dollar tracks trumps favorability down
The International Business Times reports that several major airlines are offering frequent flyer miles in exchange for donations to Hurricane Harvey disaster relief. American Airlines, for example, will provide 10 miles for every dollar donated to the American Red Cross after a minimum $25 contribution. Other carriers have similar programs, including United, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways.

The Kindness of Strangers

For all the talk of economic impact and barrels of oil, it’s important we keep in mind that Hurricane Harvey has had real consequences on individuals, families and businesses. Many of them have lost everything.

I might not have been born in the U.S., but I’ve always been moved and inspired by how selflessly Americans rally together and rush to each other’s aid in times of dire need.

This, of course, is one of those times, and I urge everyone reading this to consider donating to a reputable charity of your choice. For our part, U.S. Global Investors will be donating money, food, clothing and other necessities to one of our favorite local charities, the San Antonio Food Bank.

Please keep the people of South Texas and Louisiana in your thoughts and prayers!



33 Comments on "We Looked into the Effects of Hurricane Harvey and Here’s What We Found"

  1. Boat on Tue, 5th Sep 2017 6:45 pm 

    I know you can get gasoline at $2.19, filled up 2 hrs a go.

  2. Apneaman on Tue, 5th Sep 2017 8:10 pm 

    Apparently they thought they would skip the part about the cause of why it was such a monster and the recent rain bombs leading up to it.

    The beatings will continue and moral will never improve.

    If I believed in such a concept as ‘deserved’ I would say Houston and all these retarded humans deserve it, but…….

    We’ll just stick with cause and effect and point out that when the technology can no longer maintain it’s near impenetrable bubble between the fragile humans and nature, those who fail to adapt will go extinct.

    Go ahead and rebuild Houston. I will continue to be amused watching your futile efforts get wipe out over and over again.

  3. Apneaman on Tue, 5th Sep 2017 8:18 pm 

    Boat, apparently they have found another link to your national stupidity crisis.

    Plastic fibres found in tap water around the world, study reveals

    Exclusive: Tests show billions of people globally are drinking water contaminated by plastic particles, with 83% of samples found to be polluted

    “The US had the highest contamination rate, at 94%, with plastic fibres found in tap water sampled at sites including Congress buildings, the US Environmental Protection Agency’s headquarters, and Trump Tower in New York. Lebanon and India had the next highest rates.”

  4. Apneaman on Tue, 5th Sep 2017 8:23 pm 

    Ash falls like snow in Seattle as wildfires rage in Pacific Northwest

    Stay Inside and Keep Your Windows Closed, Because Portland’s Rain of Ash Might Get Even Worse Today
    “If you don’t have AC, it’s going to be unpleasant at best and if you have breathing problems, it could complicate things more.”

  5. Boat on Tue, 5th Sep 2017 9:10 pm 


    Yep, trucks all over the place. Apparently big bucks going into rebuilding.

  6. Apneaman on Tue, 5th Sep 2017 10:05 pm 

    Boat, it’s disaster capitalism taken to the next level. I’m sure it will last forever.

  7. Makati1 on Tue, 5th Sep 2017 10:24 pm 

    Ap, don’t burst the dreamer’s bubble. Those ‘big trucks’ could be moving people and businesses out of the area also. Maybe if he is lucky, Irma will visit next week and Jose a few weeks later. Maybe that would make Huston a boom town in his mind? After all, it would raise the local population by three. LOL

  8. Anonymouse1 on Tue, 5th Sep 2017 10:41 pm 

    500,000 mobile trash cans taken off the roads. Its not much when cast against the what?, 250 million of them in the united snakes, but it is a good start.

  9. Stephen Sela on Wed, 6th Sep 2017 2:30 am 

    Great article.

  10. deadlykillerbeaz on Wed, 6th Sep 2017 5:29 am 

    Gasoline was $4.199 in circa 2009, $2.599 is a bargain. If anything, the oil industry deserves a few more dollars and a lot of credit. Gasoline saved a lot of lives.

    Irma will wreak havoc soon.

    The effects will be known by Saturday.

    Then you can send a donation by your smartphone, might as well do it now.

    Hash tag Miami or Florida, something like that.

    Unless it tracks further north, expect Florida to be a temporary shallow sea.

    Don’t forget Puerto Rico, might be time to prepare for the worst.

  11. Davy on Wed, 6th Sep 2017 6:17 am 

    “Extremely Dangerous Cat 5 Irma Storms into Leeward Islands”

    “Figure 4. Maximum Potential Intensity (MPI) is a theoretical measure of the maximum strength a hurricane can achieve, based on the existing ocean temperatures and the thermal profile of the atmosphere. Above is a plot of the MPI as computed from the GFS model run from 0Z Tuesday, September 5, 2017. Irma hit 185-mph winds in a region where theory said it should only have been able to attain peak winds of about 165 mph. According to an email from hurricane scientist Dr. Kerry Emanuel, “in numerical simulations, rapid intensifiers often overshoot their potential intensity, but eventually settle back to it.” Note that the MPI along the track of Irma peaks at about 210 – 215 mph in the Florida Straits. This implies that Irma has room for still more intensification as it approaches Florida, if wind shear, land interaction, and eyewall replacement cycles do not interfere. Image credit: Kerry Emanuel.”

    “Track forecast for Irma near Florida. Irma poses the most serious hurricane threat to northern Cuba and Florida since at least Hurricane Andrew (1992)…. The level of agreement among models and over time has been quite high for a forecast in the 5-day range. Given this agreement and Irma’s Category 5 strength, residents of Florida must take this hurricane with the utmost seriousness.”

  12. Davy on Wed, 6th Sep 2017 6:58 am 

    I cannot remember a time with more potentially disruptive events in the world today then the place we are at now. Weather disasters, potential war, markets on edge, and political turmoil is just the short list. The longer list is all those other predicaments that simmer on like climate disruption, ecological failure, social unrest, and peak oil dynamics. The debt ceiling and ongoing Trump turmoil continue to plague the US. Russia, China, and US geopolitical turmoil in relation to an ongoing cold war and now a possible NK war threaten the global economy like never before. One very damaging storm to be followed by possibly another. This other likely a Cat4 ripping apart the spine of Florida. Markets have been on edge but deceptively so. The markets are so conditioned to “whatever it takes” and “extend and pretend” nothing has budged them. They are nervous though and how deep down is panic? US equity markets are considerable overpriced and set for a correction. China is set for a massive devaluation or capital flight. European sovereign debt is smoldering and only getting worse. Tell me one optimistic macro reality? I don’t want to her techno optimism because that is completely dependent on these other events.

    All this turmoil as we head into fall which is a traditionally volatile time. Could this be the perfect storm that breaks lose to overwhelm the status quo? All you anti-Americans that have wet dreams of the collapse of the US must be a little nervous. The reality of very hard times in the US is very hard times for you. Contagions are ready to infect you and your overextended hollow economies also. I know you think you are going to watch the US going down while you pass the popcorn. Makat, will be cheering and the rest of you more modest will be cheering in silence because you are not sure of what will result.

    Hold on because these are very uncertain times. With so many disruptive events and all of them potentially related how can we make it through these times without disruption? Even in the best of times how could we skate through this gauntlet unscathed? These have to be the worst of times I can remember especially for the US. I feel we are in the prelude to the first of many systematic perturbation. The question is will needed change result or a cascade do failures. Will this be a rapid decline or a drawn out process?

  13. CAM on Wed, 6th Sep 2017 7:03 am 

    Yes, now Texas wants US Government money, (read our tax dollars) to rebuild. But their congressmen and senators voted against aid for Sandy.

    Wasn’t it only a few years ago when their governor was talking about succession from the US.

    Well of course the right thing to do is provide the required help, which the US Government will do.

  14. Davy on Wed, 6th Sep 2017 7:20 am 

    “Yes, now Texas wants US Government money, (read our tax dollars) to rebuild. But their congressmen and senators voted against aid for Sandy.”
    Cam, that situation has deeper meaning. The bill the Sandy recovery money was attached to was a big pork fest of nonrelated related spending. Every state had something attached.

    “Wasn’t it only a few years ago when their governor was talking about succession from the US.”
    I don’t remember that? Do you have references? We are always hearing succession talk out of California and Texas but I doubt out of the governors.

    While I agree with you the science denying Texas political establishment is disgusting let’s keep it factual and balanced

  15. Cloggie on Wed, 6th Sep 2017 7:28 am

    Irma has arrived at Dutch-Caribbean island of Sint Maarten.

  16. Ken Neal on Wed, 6th Sep 2017 8:17 am 

    I’ll be saving my donations for the poor sods in the Caribbean who are being trashed by Irma and didn’t vote for the idiot, Trump. If the people of the US need help tell them to go to Wall Street, Trump and the Koches as they’re the ones who are making money out of their contributions to global warming.

    I find it ironic that Gaia should take revenge on Houston,the heartland of oil, soon after Trump withdrew from the Paris agreement.

  17. onlooker on Wed, 6th Sep 2017 8:42 am 

    Yes, energy problems, climatic upheaval, economic perturbations, social chaos, geopolitical antagonism all are growing. And the causes underlying them are overpopulation and ecological degradation along with a divided humanity that has foolishly forged a very unequal and unjust world

  18. Sissyfuss on Wed, 6th Sep 2017 9:22 am 

    Not uncertain times, Davy. Interesting times.

  19. Cloggie on Wed, 6th Sep 2017 9:44 am 

    Sint Maarten, another Houston. Water streaming through the streets:

  20. Apneaman on Wed, 6th Sep 2017 10:15 am 

    FEMA Is Almost Out of Money and Hurricane Irma Is Approaching

    -Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund down to its last $1 billion

    -Fund has burned through half its money since Thursday morning

  21. Apneaman on Wed, 6th Sep 2017 10:20 am 

    “Gasoline saved a lot of lives.”

    People who puke out pretzel logic like this are an immediate danger to the lives of others.

    We’re all going down, but this mentality will take you out much sooner. This is why the more of them that die the better off, if only in the short term, others will be.

    Too bad useful idiots outbreed everyone else.

  22. Davy on Wed, 6th Sep 2017 11:38 am 

    “Coastal Watches/Warnings and Forecast Cone for Storm Center”

    Catastrophic south Florida forecast. BTW & IMA right on target for Turkey Point Nuclear power station

  23. Hello on Wed, 6th Sep 2017 11:58 am 

    EU court decision today. East european nations are forced to take in their “share” of muslim/negro sludge.

    Are native europeans really dumber than a doorknob? It almost seems like.

  24. DerHundistlos on Wed, 6th Sep 2017 1:52 pm 


    CAM is correct. Rick Perry was quoted as saying, “Texans may want to secede from the Union”.

    The excuse that Sandy relief included other spending bills now provides the Republicans with convenient cover as they request billions of dollars from the federal government. The fact of the matter is that the Sandy bill was no different than any other appropriation bill- it’s how business has always been conducted in DC.

  25. MASTERMIND on Wed, 6th Sep 2017 2:17 pm 

    Just wait until we experience a 10% or 20% drop in oil supplies. In a few years or sooner we certainly will. When it hits the economic and social damage will be catastrophic The end of Western Civilization, from China to Europe, to the US, will not occur when oil runs out. The economic and social chaos will occur when supplies are merely reduced sufficiently.

    the collapse will be absolutely horrible..There is no collapse or horror movie ever produced that has even come close to imagining what the collapse of BAU might look like. I’m talking about people eating people. I’m talking about the Worst Catastrophe to ever happen in the history of mankind. Nothing has ever, or will ever come close.

  26. deadlykillerbeaz on Wed, 6th Sep 2017 2:20 pm 

    Too bad I need to power barf every single day. Always some idiotic reason or another.

    I apologize for being so stupid. A stupid useless idiot, I am so sorry.

    Had 7.9 million Houstoners had been forced to ride out the storm because of no means of escape, the death toll would have been greater, like Galveston back in 1900.

    If you can drive 250 miles north for three days and not have to fear for your life for 48 hours, it is a just common sense to not be where the hurricane is most intense.

    Better to be safe than sorry.

    15 gallons of gas per vehicle saved lives.

    Hurricane of July, 1502–Was a storm that the great explorer and discoverer of American, Christopher Columbus, predicted would strike the island of Hispanola. He used his prediction to warn the Governor of Hispanola, Nicholas de Ovando, who had 30 ships in his fleet set sail back to Spain. However, the governor ignored him, and refused Columbus’ request to stay in port at Santo Domingo. Within two days the storm struck in the Mona Passage between Hispanola and Puerto Rico, and sank 21 of the 30 ships, and killed approximately 500 sailors.

    Darwin Award for not listening to Columbus.

  27. Davy on Wed, 6th Sep 2017 2:31 pm 

    Der Hund, I never liked the guy but you might want to check your facts to these facts I found:

    “What Perry Really Said About Secession”

    “The Obama team falsely suggests Texas Gov. Rick Perry advocated secession. Perry’s actual remarks have been mischaracterized. Perry entertained a reporter’s question about secession after a tea party rally in 2009, and warned that “if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what may come out of that?” But he’s made clear all along that “we’ve got a great union” and there is “no reason to dissolve it.” Perry has carelessly commented that Texas has a unique right to secede from the union, having once been an independent republic. That’s a myth, historians say. But Perry never advocated secession. Perry Never Advocated Secession. Perry has been dogged by mischaracterizations of his secession comments ever since he made them. But with Perry recently declaring himself a Republican candidate for president, those attacks have been ramped up by opponents trying to marginalize his candidacy by dismissing Perry as the guy who once talked about Texas seceding from the union.”

  28. Davy on Wed, 6th Sep 2017 3:23 pm 

    The Irma GFS model talk about here is not the official forecast but due to the warm water temps in Florida this model cannot be ruled out. South Florida would be toast and then on to a tristate melee with Georgia and South Carolina in the crosshairs. The key here is water temps and this is why the AGW deniers should take note.

    “Models Show Irma Tracking Toward 88 Degree (F) Waters Before Setting Sights on Florida, Georgia and South Carolina”

    “the storm is expected to maintain Category 5 intensity through at least the next 48 hours. After 72 hours, the official forecast calls for Irma to drop to strong Category 4 intensity and eventually a strong Category 3 by Monday. However, some models like the GFS show Irma again strengthening as it taps very warm waters off Florida.”

    “Most models are now starting to settle on a consensus that brings Irma toward Florida and along a course that may threaten Georgia and South Carolina. The GFS model shows Irma tapping extremely hot sea surface temperatures in the range of 88 degrees Fahrenheit (about 3.5 F hotter than average) and pumping up again into very strong Category 5 intensity with an 895 mb minimum central pressure off Florida by Sunday. This would be a stronger intensity than the 914 mb reached last night by measure of pressure alone.”

    “GFS shows the storm raking most of the Florida coast as it bounces from one landfall or near landfall to another across the eastern seaboard before making a final landfall as a 924 mb monster along the Georgia-South Carolina border. Meanwhile, another major model — the Euro (ECMWF) — has the storm following approximately the same path at a lower intensity.”

    “Though the GFS modeled intensity does not jibe with the official forecast — which calls for weakening of Irma to strong Cat 4 and then strong Cat 3 status — we should not completely rule out the GFS prediction due to those very warm ocean surfaces mentioned above. If predicted wind shear does not emerge, then it would allow Irma to more effectively tap those very warm waters off Florida and hit a second peak intensity. And if such a forecast were realized, it would produce a seriously catastrophic disaster for the U.S. East Coast.”

  29. DerHundistlos on Wed, 6th Sep 2017 3:42 pm 

    Davy, you may want to check your facts first as well:

    This from Fox News:

    “Governor Says Texans May Want to Secede From Union But Probably Won’t”

    In other words, Davy, it’s even worse in that he is a talking out of both sides of his mouth, pandering POS.

  30. Davy on Wed, 6th Sep 2017 4:30 pm 

    Der hund, do you have a Link to that Fox News headline?

  31. DerHundistlos on Wed, 6th Sep 2017 11:20 pm 

    Davy, type the headline into your browser and you will find the article. Thought you would have known to do that.

  32. Apneaman on Thu, 7th Sep 2017 12:05 am 

    Jesus is Lord, A Worshipping Christian’s Blog
    Bringing a Christian’s Perspective to Current Events

    Governor Says Texans May Want to Secede From Union But Probably Won’t

    “Texas Gov. Rick Perry fired up an anti-tax “tea party” Wednesday with his stance against the federal government and for states’ rights as some in his U.S. flag-waving audience shouted, “Secede!”

    An animated Perry told the crowd at Austin City Hall — one of three tea parties he was attending across the state — that officials in Washington have abandoned the country’s founding principles of limited government. He said the federal government is strangling Americans with taxation, spending and debt.”

    Now that texass has it’s hand out Perry is back tracking

    ‘No no I meant succeed not secede’ – [Fake news quote]

    All them libertarian, prosperity gospel, phony Christian denier scum have gone silent now that they want that big taxpayer BIG GOVERNMENT disaster money. They have no problem with it now just like they have no problem with BIG GOVERNMENT subsidized flood insurance or BIG GOVERNMENT SS pension or BIG GOVERNMENT medicare or any BIG GOVERNMENT social program that saves them money and helps them prosper and be secure. It’s when them other people that get it is the problem. Then it’s welfare for useless eaters – don’t tread on me bla bla bla. These are among the most disgusting people in America.

    Why not show the world the courage of your conviction and not apply for any BIG GOVERNMENT disaster relief?

  33. Davy on Thu, 7th Sep 2017 1:02 am 

    “Davy, type the headline into your browser and you will find the article. Thought you would have known to do that.”

    Or, you can comment properly with the links. Thought you would have known to do that.

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