Hurricane Storm Surge Poses $300 Billion Risk

The Houston region is on a list of ten urban areas at the highest risk for property damage from hurricane storm surge. A new report shows storm surge in urban areas could have a more than 300-billion-dollar impact. Laurie Johnson reports.

It comes as no surprise to Houstonians that this region is at high risk for hurricane storm surge. But the report, issued by CoreLogic, a property and financial analysis company, shows potential damage extends beyond local flood zones already identified by FEMA.

Dr. Howard Botts led the research on storm surge risk and says people need to be aware that properties outside established flood zones are not immune to storm surge.

"If you're not in a FEMA flood zone, but you're in a coastal surge zone you may want to consider — particularly if you're near an area that where water can be pushed up into in a hurricane event — getting flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program, which is very inexpensive."

The report measures risk in terms of the cost of damage to property. So while Houston, at number six, could see $20 billion in property damage from storm surge, Long Island, New York is number one on the list with a possible $99 billion worth of property damage.

Common sense says storm surge from a hurricane is more likely to be a problem here in Houston than in New York.

But the report deals with property values, not probability.

"But when we get another storm like the 1938 hurricane that did strike Long Island, it is the most vulnerable to the highest amounts of property damage. So it would be a relatively low frequency event, but when it does hit we're talking huge dollar potential in terms of property exposed."

In the Houston region's coastal areas, Botts says 74 percent of properties are in a storm surge zone.>

> For the 2011 CoreLogic Storm Surge Report.pdf.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...