Hurricane Harvey was a tropical cyclone that caused unprecedented and catastrophic flooding in southeastern Texas. It is the first major hurricane to make landfall in the United States since Wilma in 2005, ending a record 12-year period with no major hurricanes making landfall in the United States.
Harvey is also the first hurricane to hit the state of Texas since Ike in 2008, and the strongest to hit the state since Carla in 1961. In addition, it is the strongest hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico since Hurricane Rita in 2005 and the strongest to make landfall in the United States since Hurricane Charley in 2004. It joined Matthew as one of only two U.S. hurricanes to cause an extreme wind warning to be issued, indicating "tornado-like winds" within the storm including isolated tornadoes.
The eighth named storm, third hurricane, and the first major hurricane of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, Harvey developed from a tropical wave to the east of the Lesser Antilles on August 17. The storm crossed through the Windward Islands on the following day, passing just south of Barbados and later near Saint Vincent. Upon entering the Caribbean Sea, Harvey began to weaken due to moderate wind shear and degenerated into a tropical wave north of Colombia early on August 19. The remnants were monitored for regeneration as it continued west-northwestward across the Caribbean and the Yucatán Peninsula, before redeveloping over the Bay of Campeche on August 23.
Harvey then began to rapidly intensify on August 24, regaining tropical storm status and becoming a hurricane later that day. While the storm moved generally northwestwards, Harvey's intensification phase stalled slightly overnight from August 24–25, however Harvey soon resumed strengthening and became a category 4 hurricane late on August 25. Hours later, Harvey made landfall near Rockport, Texas, at peak intensity.
The storm struck a coastline which has seen sea level rise exceeding 6 inches (15 cm) in recent decades, partly due to coastal subsidence caused by oil drilling or other activities, and partly an effect of global warming. Increased regional sea surface temperatures have led to more moisture in the atmosphere, causing more rainfall, and have contributed to the strength of the storm. Harvey has caused at least eight confirmed deaths; one in Guyana, and seven in the United States. Catastrophic inland flooding is ongoing in the Greater Houston area. The FEMA director Brock Long called Harvey "the worst disaster" in Texan history, and expected the recovery to take "many years."
Scientists say the storm is likely to be the most devastating flood the Houston region has ever seen — even more so than Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, which was the worst rainstorm to ever befall an American city in modern history.
“The economic impact should be greater than any other flood event we’ve ever experienced,” said Sam Brody, a scientist at a Texas A&M University at Galveston who specializes in natural hazards mitigation. “And it’s going to take years for these residential communities to recover.”
Wall Street analysts estimated insured losses of up to $20 billion, making Harvey one of the costliest storms in history for U.S. insurers.