Report: Harvey Could Be The Most Costly Natural Disaster In US History

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Tropical Storm Harvey could cost more than Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Katrina, combined, according to weather forecaster AccuWeather.

AccuWeather believes Harvey could cost the entire U.S. economy nearly $190 billion, which the group argues is more than costs associated with Sandy and Katrina. Harvey, which was initially a Category 4 hurricane before slamming Texas, has affected Houston and its massive energy sector the most.

“This is the costliest and worst natural disaster in American history,” Dr. Joel N. Myers, the founder of the weather forecasting group, said in report Wednesday about Tropical Storm Harvey.

The bulk of their calculations comes from Houston’s enormous impact on the overall economy – the country’s fourth largest city houses some of the country’s largest oil refineries, among other important energy projects.

Harvey is responsible for shuttering three Gulf Coast refining centers and could knock off a fourth within the next week, according to The Wall Street Journal. The storm also put offline Saudi Arabian Oil Co.’s Motiva facility and the Exxon Mobil Baytown facility, both of which represent 30 percent of the U.S. refining capacity, according to IHS Markit.

More than 3 million barrels a day of refining capacity in Texas remained shut Wednesday morning, according to analysts. The close-downs are temporary – three refineries said on Wednesday they were either starting up or planning to start up again.

Myers suggested Houston is staring at a complete shutdown as water begins to recede. “Parts of Houston, the United States’ fourth largest city will be uninhabitable for weeks and possibly months due to water damage, mold, disease-ridden water and all that will follow this 1,000-year flood,” he said.

AccuWeather’s forecasts appear, at first blush, to contrast with those from insurance adjusters. Hannover Re, one of the world’s largest reinsurers, claimed insured losses from the massive storm that hit New Orleans in 2005 were around $80 billion, while losses from Sandy were $36 billion. Losses from Harvey are expected to be less than $3 billion, according to the group’s report. 

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