Hurricane Harvey has already secured its place as one of the most tragic natural disasters in recent memory. It has affected over 6.8-million people and will cause an estimated 30,000 or so to seek temporary relocation.
Though Harvey may not end up on the same level damage-wise as the most notorious post-2000 hurricanes—a spokesperson from reinsurer Hannover Re told CBC "We are far from Katrina and Sandy in magnitude in the case of Hurricane Harvey"—the recovery process in Houston or any of the other 29 Texas counties affected will be an arduous one.
One sobering revelation that has added to the arduousness of it all is a piece of reporting done by The Atlantic that shows that under a sixth of all homes in the Houston area (119,000 out of the region's 800,000 total) have flood insurance. Corpus Christi, which has also been strongly affected, shows similar numbers, with 19,183 of its 115,000 housing units being insured specifically for flood damage.
On the surface it seems silly that anyone living in close proximity to the gulf of Mexico would live in a home that wasn't insured for flooding. Given the area's susceptibility to hurricane and tropical storm damage, it would appear to be a fairly intuitive decision. But the reality is that flood insurance in those sorts of places is extremely expensive. It has to be to justify the risk of insuring such a flood-prone region.
Still, as The Atlantic's Vann R. Newkirk II goes on to detail, even insured homes may have trouble cashing in on the proper coverage due to the shaky state of the US's National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Reportedly in debt since its inception 50 years ago, it now runs a deficit of at least $24 billion.
But with the direct effects of Hurricane Harvey still being felt, it will take some time before the Houston area can even focus on picking up the pieces.
"We are not at recovery yet," said Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long. "Right now, this mission is a life-safety, life-sustaining mission."