Hurricane Harvey began as a tropical wave off the west coast of Africa on August
13, 2017, and tracked across the Atlantic Ocean, where it became a tropical storm
on August 17. After entering the Caribbean Sea, it became disorganized and then
entered the Gulf of Mexico on August 22. It would intensify due to the warm Gulf
waters and soon grew into a Category 1 hurricane on August 24 with 80-mph winds.
It continued to gain strength as it churned toward Texas. The National Hurricane
Center upgraded the storm to a Category 4 hurricane August 25, with sustained
winds of up to 130 mph.
It first made landfall over San Jose Island and then near Rockport in south-central
Texas late August 25 threatening millions of residents with 130-mph winds, heavy
rains, and a massive storm surge that swamped coastal areas. As the hurricane moved
inland, its forward motion slowed to near 5 mph and meandered just north of Victoria, Texas. Strong rain bands developed during the evening of August 26, causing
tremendous rainfall rates and rapid development of flash flooding.
By August 27, winds died down to as low as 40 mph, but the storm dumped a
year’s worth of rain in less than a week on Houston and much of southeastern Texas.
By August 29, two flood-control reservoirs had breached, increasing water levels
throughout the Houston area.
Hurricane Harvey made its third and final landfall August 30 near Port Arthur,
Texas, bringing widespread catastrophic flooding. While authorities and first responders handled as many as 10,000 rescue missions around Houston, at least
30,000 people fled to temporary shelters.
As the hurricane was being downgraded, it continued to dump massive amounts
of rain on parts of eastern Texas. Some parts of Houston received more than 50
inches of rainfall—so much that the National Weather Service had to update the colors it uses on its weather charts to properly account for it.
On September 1, Texas governor Greg Abbott appeared on Good Morning America
and said, “This is going to be a massive, massive cleanup process. People need to
understand this is not going to be a short-term project. This is going to be a multi-year project for Texas to be able to dig out of this catastrophe.”
Hurricane Irma was the most powerful Atlantic hurricane in recorded history. Its
winds were 185 mph for 37 hours, longer
than any storm ever recorded. Those winds
extended 50 miles from the center of the
hurricane. Its coastal storm surges were 20
feet above normal tide levels.
Hurricane Irma developed off Africa’s
west coast just west of the Cape Verde
Islands on August 30, 2017. The storm
moved westward along the Atlantic basin
as a major hurricane. It was listed as a Cate-
gory 5 hurricane with peak sustained winds
of 185 mph. As it continued to move
west and northwest, it impacted the Baha-
mas and Cuba with strong winds, storm
surge, and tropical rains. On the evening
of September 9, Hurricane Irma turned
northward toward the U.S. mainland. It
made landfall over the Southern Florida
September 10, as a Category 3 storm, pack-
ing winds of more than 110 mph. It later
intensified to a Category 4 hurricane
with 130-mph winds. Life-threatening
and highly damaging storm surge greatly
impacted both coastlines of Florida with
severe flooding. More than 6. 7 million
Floridians lost power. By September 11,
Hurricane Irma weakened to a tropical
storm as it moved north toward Georgia
and Alabama. It continued to weaken,
and by September 13 it had dissipated
over western Tennessee.
The storm was responsible for 34
deaths in Florida, and damage estimates
were in excess of $100 billion.
Role of Food Protection
Officials Following a
The disruptions following a natural
disaster can create potential health
concerns. Government food protection officials are responsible to ensure
these potential health concerns have
been mitigated. Food establishments are
generally required to cease operations in
an emergency, and those affected by a
natural disaster should not reopen until
authorization has been granted by the
local or state regulatory authority.
The personal safety of responding
officials is always a primary concern.
These individuals should never enter a
hurricane- or flood-damaged building
Hurricane Harvey: At a Glance
Two simultaneous public health emergencies: a Cyclospora outbreak and
All three TRRT agencies were needed
The hurricane’s second landfall was where most of the cyclosporiasis
clusters were located
Disaster response took priority over foodborne-illness investigation and
Vibrio vulnificus cases arose from contact with contaminated floodwaters
These events took place during fiscal-year transitions and agency
Inter- and intra-agency relationships, coordination, and collaboration are
paramount in large-scale emergency response
RRTs should be flexible and able to prioritize during activations
It is critical to anticipate the necessity of multiple activations and to prepare
with training and availability of additional resources