Harvey's Catastrophic Flood Disaster Comes to an End

September 1, 2017

Harvey long-lived odyssey of rain is in its final chapter, spreading heavy rain into the Ohio Valley Friday, potentially triggering additional flash flooding.

(FULL COVERAGE ON HARVEY: Hurricane Central)

Harvey's remnants are finally giving way to clearer skies as they accelerate northeastward into the mid-Atlantic. 

Localized flooding and a few tornadoes may be possible through early Saturday, but finally, at last, Harvey is about to go into the record books. 

Current Radar, Watches and Warnings

Harvey's Recap: A Truly Historic Hurricane

Below is a comprehensive look back at the history of Harvey, beginning with an overview of its journey, followed by recaps of its landfall impacts and catastrophic flooding.


Harvey roots can be traced back to a tropical wave that emerged from the African coast in early August.

That disturbance finally formed into Tropical Storm Harvey east of the Lesser Antilles on Aug. 17. Those islands experienced locally heavy rain and gusty winds as Harvey passed through.

A couple of days later, Harvey succumbed to dry air and unfavorable winds aloft in the eastern Caribbean, and the National Hurricane Center ceased advisories on Aug. 19.  

The remnants of Harvey continued to push northwest for several days and eventually crossed Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Once its remnants moved back over water in the southwest Gulf of Mexico, Harvey quickly reformed into a tropical depression on Aug. 23.

In just 56 hours, Harvey grew from a regenerated tropical depression over the Gulf of Mexico into a Category 4 hurricane as it made landfall near the Texas Gulf Coast late on Aug. 25.

(MORE: Why Harvey Rapidly Intensified)

Harvey's center of circulation stalled over south Texas on Aug. 26 and then meandered slowly east into the Gulf of Mexico before making a final landfall near Cameron, Louisiana, on Aug. 30.

Still a named storm 117 hours after landfall, Harvey was the longest a Texas landfalling hurricane remained a named storm after landfall on record, according to Colorado State University tropical scientist Dr. Phil Klotzbach.

It was the slow movement from Aug. 26-30 that led to the catastrophic flooding that was observed in southeast Texas.

It is very unlikely that we will see the name "Harvey" used again for another tropical cyclone due to its extreme damage and devastation along the Gulf Coast. 

Harvey's Category 4 Landfall

Harvey made landfall on the evening of Aug. 25 near Rockport, a town of less than 10,000 people and about 30 miles up the Texas coast from Corpus Christi. Maximum sustained winds in Harvey's eyewall were 130 mph at that time, making it a Category 4.

Harvey was the nation's first major (Category 3 or stronger) hurricane landfall since Hurricane Wilma struck South Florida in October 2005, an almost 12-year run. 

Wind gusts from Harvey near its landfall point topped 100 mph in many locations, leading to widespread destruction of homes and buildings.

Top Wind Gust Reports

  • Port Aransas: 132 mph, sustained to 110 mph
  • Near Copano Village: 125 mph
  • Near Lamar: 110 mph
  • Rockport: 108 mph
  • Near Taft: 90 mph
  • Near Magnolia Beach: 79 mph
  • Palacios: 69 mph
  • Corpus Christi Int'l Airport: 63 mph
  • Austin Bergstrom Int'l Airport: 52 mph

Pounding waves on top of Harvey's storm surge also inundated parts of the Texas Coastal Bend, resulting in damage in some areas.

The maximum observed water level rise at Harvey's landfall point was 6.71 feet at Port Lavaca.

Harvey was the strongest landfall in this area, known as the Texas Coastal Bend, since Hurricane Carla, in September 1961.

To see a complete radar loop of Harvey from landfall until the end of its lifespan, Brian McNoldy at the University of Miami, Rosenstiel School, has put together an incredible seven-day radar loop that you can see here. 

The only other Category 4 landfall of record near the Texas Coastal Bend was the infamous Indianola hurricane of August 1886, which devastated the town of Indianola just 11 years after another Category 3 hurricane, eventually turning the former bustling port into a ghost town.

Catastrophic, Record Flooding in Southeast Texas

Harvey's extreme slow movement Aug. 26-30 kept a fire hose of moisture pointed into southeast Texas and Louisiana for days, resulting in catastrophic flooding.

Numerous flash flood emergencies were issued for the Houston and Beaumont, Texas, metropolitan areas, and for Bastrop County and nearby communities.

The areal coverage of locations picking up at least 20 inches of rain was greater than the state of West Virginia, while the 40-inch-plus zone was larger than Delaware.

The top rainfall total was a preliminary 51.88 inches near Highlands, Texas, at the Cedar Bayou rain gauge.

Pending final confirmation, this rainfall total would be the heaviest from any tropical cyclone in the continental U.S. in records dating to 1950, topping the 48-inch storm total in Medina, Texas, from Tropical Storm Amelia in 1978, according to research by NOAA/WPC meteorologist David Roth.

Top Rainfall Reports

  • 51.88 inches on Cedar Bayou near Highlands, Texas (Preliminary Lower 48 tropical cyclone record)
  • 49.40 inches on Clear Creek at Interstate 45 near League City, Texas (Preliminary Lower 48 tropical cyclone record)
  • 49.32 inches on Mary's Creek near Friendswood (Preliminary Lower 48 tropical cyclone record)
  • 49.23 inches near Dayton (Preliminary Lower 48 tropical cyclone record)
  • 49.20 inches on Mary's Creek at Winding Road (Preliminary Lower 48 tropical cyclone record)
  • 47.35 inches in Beaumont/Port Arthur, Texas
  • 45.74 inches near Pasadena
  • 44.91 inches near South Houston
  • 43.38 inches at the NWS forecast office in Houston (League City)
  • 37.01 inches at Houston Hobby Airport
  • 31.26 inches at Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport
  • 22.84 inches in Galveston
  • 21.88 inches in Smithville
  • 19.64 inches in College Station
  • 15.60 inches near Victoria
  • 15.41 inches near Lake Charles, Louisiana
  • 12.33 inches near Hackberry, Louisiana
  • 9.96 inches near Watson, Arkansas
  • 8.27 inches near Gautier, Mississippi
  • 7.95 inches at Pensacola Regional Airport, Florida
  • 5.73 inches near Plano, Kentucky

Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport crushed its record-wettest calendar day Sunday by over 5 inches, picking up 16.07 inches of rain, just under the five-day total of 16.48 inches from Tropical Storm Allison in 2001. Houston's Hobby Airport also crushed a two-day rainfall record by almost 8 inches, picking up 23.06 inches of rain Aug. 26-27.

Houston had two of its five heaviest calendar-day rainfalls from Harvey.

The average rainfall within the Harris County Emergency Management network exceeded that of Tropical Storm Allison (2001) in almost half of the time (2 to 3 days versus 5 days). The Harris County Flood Control District estimated one trillion gallons of water was dumped on the county alone in four days.

Harvey's flooding has caused one of the worst weather disasters in U.S. history, with a price tag that will amount to billions of dollars. The HCFCD estimated 70 percent of Harris County was flooded by at least 1.5 feet of water, with an estimated 136,000 flooded structures in the county alone, as of August 31.

Thousands of water rescues occurred in the Houston metro area as many homes and businesses were swamped by floodwaters.

Houston wasn't the only location to suffer disastrous flooding.

Jack Brooks Regional Airport near Port Arthur, Texas, picked up a staggering 26.03 inches of rain on Aug. 29 alone, more than doubling the previous calendar-day rainfall record in Beaumont-Port Arthur set over 94 years ago. Its storm total from Aug. 26-30 was an incredible 47.35 inches of rain, almost 25 inches greater than its previous record four-day rain record set in September 1980.

The resultant flooding swamped a storm shelter in Port Arthur, prompting evacuees to be moved to another shelter.

Interstate 10 between Beaumont and Winnie, Texas, was overtaken by the floodwaters, as well.

Serious flooding also occurred southwest of Houston along the Brazos, Colorado and Guadalupe Rivers.

In total, 19 National Weather Service river gauges had observed record flooding as of Aug. 31.

This wasn't just a story in Texas and Louisiana, either. According to hurricane researcher Brenden Moses, Harvey was among the wettest tropical cyclones on record in Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas

Harvey's final landfall in southern Louisiana near the Texas border.

Harvey has also spawned numerous brief tornadoes in southeast Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and North Carolina. Harvey is one of the most prolific tornado producers for a tropical cyclones, but the true number of tornadoes produced by Harvey may never be known. Many tornadoes tracked near or through floodwaters and many may have crossed paths. 

In the southwest suburb of Missouri City, more than 50 homes were damaged in the Sienna Plantation neighborhood.

On Aug. 31 into the early mornng of Sept. 1, significant flash flooding was reported in parts of Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee, including the Nashville metro area. About 30 water rescues were performed in Davidson County, Tennessee. Evacuations were needed along Whites Creek, Browns Creek, Mill Creek and Seven-Mile Creek in the Nashville metro. 

Numerous roads were closed and county schools were closed Friday in Simpson County, Kentucky. 

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