Climate Change

The perfect storm

What would happen if (or when) a major hurricane hits the Houston Ship Channel? Credit: Anna Vignet for Reveal

Hurricane Harvey has pummeled Houston and surrounding areas, dumping a year’s worth of rain in just a few days and displacing thousands from their homes.

Even though the cleanup process could take years, it’s unclear whether lawmakers will set aside the federal funding necessary to rebuild. In fact, House Republicans are considering whether to gut the nation’s disaster relief stash to pay for President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall.

In this week’s episode, reporter Neena Satija offers the latest from the ground in Houston – and lays out why the city wasn’t ready for a storm like Harvey.   

Texas is home to the Houston Ship Channel, one of the world’s busiest maritime waterways. Also in Houston, and along the channel, are oil refineries and chemical plants that make up the nation’s largest refining and petrochemical complex. It’s a major economic hub, and it’s seriously vulnerable to storms like Harvey.

In 2008, Hurricane Ike swept through Texas and resulted in billions of dollars in damage. But it could have been much worse. The storm turned at the last minute and didn’t hit Houston head on. Harvey didn’t make a direct hit either, but its effects have been catastrophic. So imagine if Harvey or Ike happened again, but instead of turning away, it headed into Houston. A computer model shows that a direct hit would create devastation far worse than what we’re seeing now.

Also in the episode: Reporter Mark Schleifstein of The Times-Picayune saw Hurricane Katrina coming years before it happened.


The latest Harvey updates from The Texas Tribune:

Support for Reveal is provided by The Reva and David Logan Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Mary and Steven Swig.

Get the Weekly Reveal newsletter

Don’t miss out on the next big story. Sign up today.