Hurricane Harvey Recovery Could Cost More Than Katrina, Says Texas Governor

by Lilli Petersen
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Hurricane Harvey has been one of the most devastating storms in living memory, killing dozens, displacing thousands, and leaving most of the city of Houston underwater. And it seems set to break another record. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said on Sept. 3 that Hurricane Harvey could cost up to $180 billion, which would make it the costliest hurricane ever.

Abbott told CNN's State Of The Union on Sunday that the not quite $8 billion that the White House had so far requested from Congress wouldn't be nearly enough to rebuild, calling it a “down payment,” and saying that a comparison to 2012's Hurricane Sandy fell short. He said,

The president has made it clear, Congress is making it clear, this is just a down payment … Let's not compare it to Sandy, let's compare it to Katrina. Listen, the population size and the geographic size is far larger than Katrina and, I think, Sandy combined.

He continued on to say that over 5 million people had been affected by the storm throughout Texas, in a swath that included Houston, Corpus Christi, and Beaumont. "It's going to require even more than what was funded for Katrina, which was more than $120 billion dollars," he said. Per Politico, he estimated the ultimate cost at about $180 billion total.

Harvey is one of the worst storms on record, comparable to 2012's Hurricane Sandy, which slammed the East Coast, including New York City and the surrounding area, and 2005's devastating Hurricane Katrina.

Sandy, which made landfall as a post-tropical storm in New Jersey, was responsible for 72 deaths in the United States, and 65 more in Haiti and Cuba, per CNN, costing around $70 billion total. Katrina, which made landfall as a Category 3 storm outside of New Orleans, killed more than 1,800 and cost anywhere from $108 billion, according to FEMA estimates, to $160 billion, per FiveThirtyEight.

Harvey, however, is unique: with more than 50 inches of rain, it shattered the record for most rainfall in one location the contiguous United States.

No matter how much it costs to recover from the storm, there's one thing that's certain — it's going to be a long haul.

Even before the worst was over, experts were estimating that it will take years to recover. “This disaster is going to be a landmark event,” FEMA Chief Brock Long said on Aug. 27. “We're setting up and gearing up for the next couple of years.”