Why Is Hurricane Harvey so Destructive?

Over the past weekend, and continuing throughout this week, the coast of Texas has been hammered by Hurricane Harvey, a storm of massive proportions. It has caused flooding and damage the likes of which we have not seen since Hurricane Katrina blasted the Gulf Coast twelve years ago. It is expected that Harvey will be just as economically devastating as Katrina was, though thankfully the loss of life is currently much lower than that inflicted by the previous storm.

What’s making this storm so disastrous is its peculiar behavior. It is unusually slow-moving and will remain poised over Texas’ coast through the middle of this week, pounding the area in one week with as much rain as typically falls there in one year. It first hit the coast near Corpus Christi as a Category 4 hurricane. It then hovered over the coast after weakening to a tropical storm, dropping over nine trillion gallons of water on the area, which includes Houston, the 5th largest city in the United States.


It is set to move back out into the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday. But this will not be the end of the storm. The warm waters of the Gulf will only add more fuel to feed the storm’s fury. While it won’t reach hurricane strength again, it is predicted to return to hit the Gulf region again, causing flooding from Houston all the way into Louisiana.

This situation is unprecedented, according to meteorologists. But what has made this storm so terrible? There are several reasons.

Normally, strong winds in the Earth’s atmosphere (at roughly 40,000 feet) can normally stop or slow down a hurricane so that they don’t last as long. The winds are quite calm at the moment, so they could not dissipate the heat and moisture that fed the hurricane. This allowed the storm to gain more strength before making landfall.

Harvey’s speed has also affected its ability to devastate the coast. Had it moved faster, it obviously would not have been able to remain over the same area. While it would still have caused damage, the rains would have been spread over a larger area instead of being concentrated on the Texas coast. The flooding looks likely to be the greatest cause of damage resulting from this storm.

Finally, the water in the Gulf of Mexico has been abnormally warm. Since hurricanes need warm water (the warmer the better) to survive and gain strength, the high temperatures in the Gulf certainly contributed to Harvey’s strength. Though climate change does not fully explain this phenomenon, many scientists agree that it did contribute to the storm’s intensity.

So, for now, Houston and its surrounding areas are bracing for another round of heavy rains and flooding. We likely won’t know the full extent of Hurricane Harvey’s devastation for several more weeks, as everyone waits for the floodwaters to recede and reveal all the damage.

Next Article
  • Weird Food of the Middle Ages

    People often like to romanticize the Middle Ages, imagining it as a time of knights and princesses, all dressed in elaborate medieval garb. Some even dream about going back in time to experience life during that time, and renaissance fairs and a popular dinner show have capitalized quite well on this obsession. But many people...

    Read More
  • Witches and Alewives: The Historical Connection

    From The Wizard of Oz to Halloween costumes, the archetypal image of a scary witch typically includes a tall, pointy hat, a cauldron, and a broom, among other accessories. But where did this popular conception arise? Many would be surprised to learn that our idea of what a witch looks like is based on the...

    Read More
  • America’s Secret Female President

    Edith Bolling Galt Wilson seemed an unlikely prospect for running one of the most powerful countries in the world. The second wife of President Woodrow Wilson was born in 1872 to a very poor family from the mountains of Virginia. Though she was given a chance to go to college, she dropped out because her...

    Read More
  • The Reality Behind the Legend of the Golden Fleece

    If you are familiar at all with Greek mythology, you have probably heard about the legend of the Golden Fleece. In this story, Jason (a Greek mythological hero) gathered a group of fellow-heroes together. This group became known as the Argonauts because their ship was named Argo, and Jason was their leader. The purpose of...

    Read More
  • Aaron Burr: Would-Be King

    Aaron Burr, one of the United States’ founding fathers and its one-time Vice President, has generally gone down in history as a bad guy because of the duel in which he killed Alexander Hamilton, America’s first Secretary of the Treasury. But for some reason, most people don’t know anything about another chapter in his life...

    Read More
  • Ancient Crocodile Species Identified

    A research team made up of paleontologists from Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Texas has identified a previously unknown species of prehistoric crocodile. The ancient reptile fossils were found in Arlington, Texas, a busy city located right in the middle of the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan area. The massive crocodile, which could reach lengths of up to 20...

    Read More
  • The Murder and Lynching that Changed America

    April 26, 1913 was supposed to have been a good day for 13-year-old Mary Phagan. It was Confederate Memorial Day in Atlanta, Georgia, where she lived. She was off for the day from her job at the National Pencil Company. Her plans included stopping by work to pick up her pay and then joining family...

    Read More
  • Female Viking Warrior Grave Identified

    In the 1880s, a Viking grave was excavated in the town of Birka in Sweden. It was obviously the grave of a warrior because it was filled with grave goods signifying as much. Along with weapons, like an axe, arrows, shields, a battle knife, a spear, and a sword, two war horses were also found...

    Read More