Houston and Hurricane Harvey: A Call to Action

Authors: Rachel Norton, Karen MacClune, Kanmani Venkateswaran, and Michael Szönyi

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 1 m (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 USD 125 billion, making it the second-costliest tropical cyclone on record after Hurricane Katrina.

This study – written by ISET-International, in collaboration with Zurich Insurance Group, the global insurer with its Flood Resilience Alliance, and the American Red Cross Global Disaster Preparedness Center – looks in detail at the Houston floods that resulted from Hurricane Harvey. Based on interviews with impacted households and businesses, and with people involved in risk reduction, response and recovery at the city, county and state level, the study identifies lessons learned from the floods. The study also 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.

This case highlights an extreme version of how disasters are anything but natural – there is an immense man-made component. However, this also means there is also an enormous amount we can do to mitigate our risk.

Houston and Hurricane Harvey ISET Intern


Norton, R., MacClune, K., Venkateswaran, K, and Szönyi, M. (2018). Houston and Hurricane Harvey: a call to action. Zurich, Switzerland: Zurich Insurance Company Ltd.

Funded by:

Zurich Insurance Company Ltd.


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