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Texas Tornadoes Cause Nearly $4.6B in Property Damage

According to CoreLogic, hail, straight-line winds, and tornadoes from a strong low-pressure system damaged approximately 18,600 single- and multifamily residential properties across the Gulf Coast area of Harris County, Texas on January 24, 2023, with a combined reconstruction value (RCV) of $4.6 billion.

An Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF Scale) tornado with a rating of three destroyed homes, and disrupted operations at petrochemical facilities outside of Houston, Texas, as the area was hit with wind gusts in the 136-165 mile per hour range. The tornado’s path extended over 18 miles, and the maximum width of the storm was 1,000 yards.

The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center drew the Harris County storm a Level 3 out of 5 “enhanced” risk of severe weather on its outlook maps, signifying the potential for a disruptive and dangerous event.

The Enhanced Fujita Scale or EF Scale is used to assign a tornado a 'rating' based on estimated wind speeds and related damage. The EF Scale was revised from the original Fujita Scale to reflect better examinations of tornado damage surveys, so as to align wind speeds more closely with associated storm damage. The new scale has to do with how most structures are designed.

Not all properties within the tornado footprint suffered damage, and a damaged structure may not have suffered 100% loss up to the full reconstruction value. The number of damaged properties will be a subset of the total 18,600 homes.

The damage survey reports a near-continuous path of destruction across portions of the county, including the cities of Houston, Pasadena, Deer Park, and Baytown. The survey reported damages at EF-2 levels (wind gusts in the 111-135 mile per hour range) for an apartment complex in southeast Houston, several homes in Pasadena and a church in Deer Park. Additional damage to several single-family residences and mobile homes was reported, and no injuries or fatalities were reported.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Storm Prediction Center (SPC) confirmed EF-0 to EF-3 level tornado damage in Harris County.

Harris County, Texas is home to a number of large industrial facilities, including petrochemical refineries, manufacturing plants and shipping operations. Companies such as Shell, Exxon Mobile and TotalEnergies operate in Harris County. Shell and Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) reported operational upsets due to the severe weather outbreak on January 24. Other companies such as Exxon Mobil and TotalEnergies sent personnel home prior to the outbreak and avoided any operational disruptions, damage or injuries. Delays in operations could have material downstream effects.

About Author: Eric C. Peck

Eric C. Peck has 20-plus years’ experience covering the mortgage industry, he most recently served as Editor-in-Chief for The Mortgage Press and National Mortgage Professional Magazine. Peck graduated from the New York Institute of Technology where he received his B.A. in Communication Arts/Media. After graduating, he began his professional career with Videography Magazine before landing in the mortgage space. Peck has edited three published books and has served as Copy Editor for Entrepreneur.com.

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