Eric Gay, Associated Press
A cyclist passes buildings damaged by Hurricane Harvey, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017, in Rockport, Texas.
By the time all the measuring and calculating is done, Hurricane Harvey will prove an era-defining storm. Federal and state officials performed admirably to limit the suffering and loss of life, but the whole mess is far worse than it needed to be.
Federal and state agencies have become remarkably proficient at responding to emergencies, but they continue to come up short on preventative measures to safeguard lives, property and the economy for the inevitable day the forces of nature strike.
Harvey as measured by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Hurricane Center rated a 4 on a scale of 5. Wind damage to framed homes, for example, should not tally as high as for a Category 5 hurricane like Katrina in 2005. However, in terms of rainfall, Harvey tops them all — 50 inches is the largest accumulation recorded for the contiguous 48 states.
After the confused and disorganized response to Katrina, federal and state relief infrastructure was substantially improved and lines of responsibility more clearly defined. Governors are in charge of crisis management, whereas the federal government delivers resources the individual states cannot reasonably be expected to have on hand.
In this regard, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and President Trump have been at the top of their games.
Nevertheless, the property and incomes losses will prove devastating. Moody’s Analytics initially estimated property losses at $75 billion and lost business from shutdowns at $25 billion, but I expect those figures to ultimately be at least $110 and $50 billion — flood damage can appear deceptively limited at first glance, and rebuilding will be slow.
Everyone is aware of rising gasoline prices as oil shipments from the Texas Eagle Ford field and refinery operations in the Gulf region are curtailed. The Colonial Pipeline, which delivers gasoline, jet fuel and heating oil to the Northeast — including metropolitan New York — is particularly vulnerable to flooding. Overall, shortages, greater reliance on more expensive imports from Europe and…