Last week I traveled to Texas to conduct loss investigation surveys in the wake of Hurricane Harvey with the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS). The primary goal of the deployment was to assess commercial building damage at various bands of wind strength where Harvey made landfall. Harvey was certainly devastating, but also revealing. In the wake of where the storm made landfall, two things were pretty clear: the people remained strong and the buildings less so.
Much of my team's time was spent conducting investigations on commercial structures. We didn't have to drive far into cities near landfall (Rockport and Port Aransas) to see a clear theme: newer, well-built structures had almost no damage, while older structures with no adherence to building codes for wind fared much worse. The structures we saw perform well in general were all of newer construction and built to sustain high winds. Many of these buildings were hotels, condos, and restaurants. The buildings we saw suffer in high winds were primarily storage buildings and buildings with metal sides and roofs. The wind either ripped off the roof, or garage doors caved, allowing the building to pressurize and be destroyed. Some of the commercial buildings we saw severely damaged would have fared well had their garage doors been reinforced for wind damage.
While many of the buildings weren't resilient to the storm, the people certainly were. Every person we talked to was looking out for their neighbors and community, even if their home or business was destroyed. Many communities we observed had messages for Harvey, saying it would not break them. From my point of view, it certainly did not. I often hear Texans are tough, and seeing their strength post-disaster certainly reinforces it.
It will be a long road to recovery, and although this location is not as hurricane prone as others, it's important building codes are strengthened and enforced during the rebuild. If they can make structures half as resilient as the people of Texas, future storms will have much less of an impact.
Category: Climate/natural disasters: Disaster risk, Floods/storms, Resilience