Recovery from Harvey will take unprecedented amounts of time

Repairing infrastructure in Houston and other affected areas will take weeks. What happens to those living paycheck-to-paycheck who won’t get paid because they can’t get to work or the business is closed? The rent and mortgage come due on Friday, September 1.

Some say, well why didn’t people evacuate? Well, if you’re a family of four, you probably can’t afford hotel bills for days, maybe weeks, and car camping can get old real fast.

I lived in Los Angeles when the Northridge quake hit. Buildings and freeways pancaked. People had the contents of their kitchen cabinets in a broken mess on the floors. Friends had structural damage to their homes. After about five days, though, there was a sense of a battered city picking itself up off the ground. In New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, it took a couple of weeks for some semblance of normality to return.

It’s going to take much longer than that for Houston. Rain will continue until the weekend, sometimes quite hard. 20 more inches could be coming to parts of Houston. Rivers, bayous, and streams will flood for weeks due to runoff.

The coastal town of Rockport TX has no functioning infrastructure. The mayor says residents should wait three to four weeks before returning. It could take that long for Houston too. Once flooded roads and highways drain, mud and debris has to be cleared, then roadways and bridges examined for structural problems and repaired if needed.

Strange smells are now coming from the Houston Ship Channel area, home to many refineries. This is probably not a good thing. All refineries are shut in Corpus Christi and all Houston refineries soon will be too, taking 20% of refining offline. If there is damage to equipment, the refineries could be down for “weeks, or even months.”

No one really knows how this will play out because the amounts of rain are just unprecedented.


  1. The more interesting thing will be to see how much ever gets rebuilt at all. My impression, fwiw, is that with each such major disaster, less and less gets repaired or restored.

    In 1994, we weren’t nearly so far down the slope of slow collapse. Recovery was mostly swift and complete. When Katrina hit, in 2005, much of the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans was *never* rebuilt.

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