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Losses Avoided from Hurricane Harvey in Texas

FEMA Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA)- Funded Acquisition and Elevation Projects

On August 25, 2017, the President approved a Major Disaster Declaration for Texas as Hurricane Harvey dropped an unprecedented amount of rain on coastal areas of the State. Although the impacts and damage dealt by Harvey are still being determined, FEMA can demonstrate that the losses would have been worse if HMA-funded acquisition and elevation projects had not been completed in the impacted areas.

This study focuses on the areas shown in Maps 1 and 2, namely the coastal counties and cities affected by Harvey. To date, FEMA has invested approximately $555 million dollars (Federal share only) in the State of Texas for acquisition and elevation of 4,386 properties through the HMA grant programs. Of that total, 1,618 properties are located in the Harvey inundation areas, and their FEMA-funded project costs are estimated at $205 million (Federal share only).

Methodology

Using HMA grant data, FEMA compared geographic information system (GIS) structure data for HMA-funded projects to the flooding depths experienced during Hurricane Harvey. FEMA then used damage curves to estimate losses avoided for three categories of flooding depth (less than 2 feet, between 2 and 5 feet, and greater than 5 feet) and three types of loss (building, contents, displacement).

FEMA’s analysis assigned an average value of $184,871 to each structure, which was assumed to be a one-story house without a basement, with 6 inches of ground clearance, and of average construction.

Tables 1 and 2 show the losses avoided by flood depth and by the type of loss.

Table 1. Riverine Areas – Acquisition and Elevation Losses Avoided

Depth of FloodingNumber of StructuresBuilding DamageContents DamageDisplacement CostsTotal
Less than 2 feet365$15,722,311$4,487,269$4,520,981$24,730,561
Between 2 and 5 feet583$43,219,580$11,855,745$21,663,551$76,738,876
Greater than 5 feet637$117,762,508$58,881,254$47,340,247$223,984,009
Total1,585$176,704,400$75,224,268$73,524,780$325,453,446

Table 2. Coastal Areas – Acquisition and Elevation Losses Avoided

Depth of FloodingNumber of Structures
Building Damage
Contents DamageDisplacement CostsTotal
Less than 2 feet28$1,294,093$776,456$924,840$2,995,389

Between 2 and 5 feet

5

$693,264

$346,632

$743,175

$1,783,071

Greater than 5 feet

0

NA

NA

NA

NA
Total33$1,987,357$1,123,088$1,668,015$4,778,460

Conclusion

FEMA’s investment of $205 million in the coastal areas of Texas for acquisition and elevation of 1,618 properties avoided losses from Hurricane Harvey of more than $330 million. This results in a Return on Investment (ROI) of 1.61, which means that for every Federal dollar spent on acquisition and elevation projects in the study area, $1.61 was saved. The ROI will continue to increase as additional rain events occur in the area and additional losses are avoided. Also, the study did not take into account other losses avoided, such as emergency response costs, insurance payments, and debris removal, so the actual losses avoided are likely higher than estimated here.

Sources

  • FEMA GIS data
  • FEMA Data Warehouse data
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Last updated November 5, 2020