This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but with a whimper.
– T. S. Eliot
We are not sure if there are words that can describe what is going on right now. Houston is a mess because of Hurricane Harvey. Now that the storm has subsided and the waters begin to recede, the recovery and clean-up are barely underway. Except we are reading that it can best be described as chaotic. But it is off the news as the focus shifts to Hurricane Irma.
It was no surprise to see initial claims for unemployment benefits leaped this past week from 241,000 to 298,000. This should rise even more going forward. In the Houston area, an unknown number of people – most likely in the thousands – have lost their homes, possessions, and jobs. Thousands of homes will most likely need to be demolished, as they have become unlivable due to mould. Many parts of Houston and environs will need to be rebuilt. The question is, do you build it as it was? Or do you rebuild to restore prairies and bayous that were paved over and contributed considerably to the massive flooding, thus resulting in the re-location of potentially thousands of people.
And we have not even begun to see what the impact of Hurricane Irma will be. Based on what we know to date numerous Caribbean islands have been devastated. Others such as Puerto Rico have seen at least a million people cut off from power and water, a situation that could last weeks and even longer. This has potentially left thousands even tens of thousands of people homeless and without jobs. The tourist industry, a mainstay of these islands, will most likely be ‘out of business’ for months if not years. Some smaller islands may become uninhabitable, requiring the re-location of thousands. Going forward, disease and other issues in the aftermath of the hurricane could claim more lives than the hurricane did.
Then there is Florida, a state of 20 million. While the epicenter of the storm appears to be shifting west putting cities like Tampa in its sights, the potential impact on Miami and Dade County with a population of upwards of three million could still be considerable. The high impact window carries up into Broward and Palm Beach counties, however, it appears the counties that could now be hit the hardest will be on the west side of Florida where the population is not as large. Taking into consideration all of southern Florida and up into South Carolina and Georgia the impact is expected to be high. In all 40 million could be in the path of Irma, 12% of the US population. Add in Houston and Texas impacted by Harvey and one could be talking about 50 million people or 15% of the US population exposed to severe flooding and hurricanes. And let’s not forget the tens of thousands impacted by wildfires on the west coast.
This post was published at GoldSeek on 10 September 2017.