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Here’s how massive Hurricane Harvey really is

Although Harvey isn't over, some data points can help put the effects and damage into perspective.  

As Hurricane Harvey continued to dump rain over the state of Texas — killing at least 15 people and stranding tens of thousands more — the National Weather Service summed up the storm in a grim tweet: “unprecedented & all impacts are unknown & beyond anything experienced.”

But from the information we have so far on the evolving tropical storm, we’ve assembled some data points to help put the effects and damage done into perspective.


Over 30,000 people

FEMA estimates that over 30,000 people will need shelter after Harvey’s barrage of rain and flooding, and 450,000 people were expected to seek disaster assistance due to flooding. The storm has so far affected about a quarter of Texas’ nearly 30 million people.

Of those, 5,000 will stay in a “mega-shelter” in Dallas, while another 1,800 spent Saturday night across 35 Red Cross shelters in Texas and Louisiana.

The Red Cross, which already has enough shelter supplies to support 28,000 people — with supplies for 22,000 more on the way — has received more than 6 million hurricane flood alerts since August 24.

15 dead

The death toll from the storm rose to 15, the Austin American-Statesman reported on Tuesday, after a man died trying to swim through flood waters Monday night. His death follows other tragic incidents, like a family of six dying when flood waters swept their van away and a sleeping woman killed when tree fell and crushed her mobile home.

300 miles

As the storm hit land on Friday, it washed over more than 300 miles of the Gulf Coast, with major risk in Texas and Louisiana, as well as effects in Mississippi and Alabama.

130 mph

Wind speeds hit 130 mph as Harvey made landfall. NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory classifies winds over 50 to 60 mph as “damaging,” which can wreak as much havoc as tornadoes.

An estimated 25 trillion gallons

The storm has dumped an estimated 11 trillion gallons of rain over the state so far and will top out at 25 trillion, experts say. That’s enough water to fill almost 38 million Olympic swimming pools.


Harvey dumped so much water on Texas that the storm broke the all-time U.S. rainfall record for a tropical storm or hurricane in the lower 48 states and caused the National Weather Service to add a new color — a deep violet — to its rain maps to fully capture the storm.

As of Monday afternoon, 13 million people were under flood watches and warnings, and more flooding is expected in Louisiana as the week continues.

58 counties

Gov. Greg Abbott declared disaster status for 58 of Texas’ 254 counties. President Trump also signed a federal disaster declaration to support efforts in Texas on Friday and declared a state of emergency for Louisiana on Monday.

1,200 workers across 509 roadways

The Texas Department of Transportation, which has 1,200 people on the ground assisting in rescue efforts and repairing the state’s storm-battered infrastructure, has closed 509 state roadways.

$40 billion to 50 billion

Harvey will cause $40 billion to $50 billion in economic damage to the region, Moody’s Analytics estimates — some from disrupted pending home sales but more from property damage. Still, the estimated damages from Hurricane Katrina, at $130 billion, dwarfs Harvey.

75,000 emergency calls

Houston had processed 75,000 emergency calls, officials said as of Monday afternoon. But lines started flooding with calls as early as Saturday. Between Saturday and Sunday, Houston received 56,000 calls to its 911 line. Normally, the city receives about 8,000 calls a day.

12,000 active Texas National Guard service members

Abbott activated the state’s entire National Guard to help with safety efforts.

5,000 federal agency employees

Federal agencies have more than five thousand employees working in Texas, and FEMA director Brock Long expects his agency “to be there for years.

Over 1 million meals, 1 million liters of water, and 20,000 tarps

FEMA had over 1,800 staff deployed distributing these supplies as of Sunday. 1 million liters of water is just about 1,102 tons.

330 pets

At least some good news has come out of the storm. Austin Pets Alive, a Texas animal shelter and advocacy group, said that it’s helped coordinate efforts to save 330 pets so far from Hurricane Harvey.