Hurricane Harvey Damage Assessment: Scope and Scale, Expectations

Hurricane Harvey Damage Assessment: Scope and Scale, Expectations

Posted on: September 3, 2017

Scope and Scale, Expectations

Even before we reached any of the affected areas, one marked difference between our experiences with Hurricane Sandy and the current situation with Hurricane Harvey was the sheer size of Texas and Harvey’s track of damage.

Harvey’s damage stretched from Corpus Christi, Texas, to Lake Charles, Louisiana, (409 miles). By comparison, Sandy began in Brigantine, New Jersey, affected all of Jersey’s coast and lost intensity along the coast of Long Island, New York (249 miles).  For Sandy to have had the same geographic impact, it would have needed to stretch from Brigantine, New Jersey, to Portland, Maine.

Much has been made about the expected size and cost of Harvey. Will it be bigger than Sandy ($70B)?  Might it even be bigger than Katrina ($160B)?  Obviously, we are very early in the recovery phase, but considering the vast amount of affected geography spread over a territory equivalent in distance of Philadelphia to Portland, Maine — with levels and degrees of damage that have not yet been discovered — it is not hard to imagine the price tag climbing past Katrina. Particularly troubling are some economists’ estimates that the storm could ultimately exceed both Sandy and Katrina combined.


Each of the communities we observed suffered significant flooding damage. At the time of our visit, waters had (for the most part) receded in Holiday Beach, Rockport and Victoria, Texas. Infrastructure, however, was in particularly poor condition. We counted almost 100 heavy duty utilities vehicles entering the towns in interruption caravans.

Some towns, like  Hallettsville and Yoakum, Texas, appeared to be entirely without power, while others appeared to be running on generator power (Hope and Rockport, Texas). Traffic lights were sporadically operational.  Many businesses were closed in all of the reported locations and most gas stations were not operating in heavily hit locations. Those that were, had lines, though not overly long.

Based on what we saw in the handful of towns we were able to access, we would expect that in many of the communities south of Houston, there will be a large number of wind claims (residential, commercial, auto) and associated extra expense claims. In light of numerous examples of infrastructure collapse, which interrupted many of the communities’ utilities, we would also expect there to be large numbers of power interruption claims.

Qualified flood adjusters will be most in demand. For those clients with flood policies exposed, we highly recommend quickly securing properly trained and supervised flood personnel as the best flood adjusters will soon be under commitment, if they are not already. If your CAT TPA has not already secured qualified personnel, Vanguard will be happy to assist in that regard as this is both a vital and time sensitive need.


Robert Gilliam is the original founder and only president of Vanguard. As part of his role, he also serves as the active director of all corporate operations including claims handling, marketing and finances. Even with these diverse duties, Robert still maintains a small pending to ensure that corporate responsibilities don’t cause him to lose touch with the ever-changing state of the adjusting profession.