Hurricane Harvey

The Storm Leaves Texas With 500,000 Flooded Vehicles



Photo by: ESA

Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm, slammed Texas over the weekend of August 25 – 27. It made landfall on Friday between Port Arkansas and Port O’Connor, became a Category 1 storm by Saturday morning and was downgraded to a tropical storm by Sunday. Before Harvey was over, it made landfall twice more, hitting not only Texas, but Louisiana as well. Its effects will take years to recover from.

According to the Weather Channel, 

  • Harvey was a catastrophic flood disaster in southeast Texas.
  • Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 Hurricane with winds of 130 mph near Rockport, Texas.
  • Harvey meandered around southern Texas for days as a weakening hurricane and tropical storm.
  • As a tropical storm, Harvey dropped 40-52 inches of rainfall in southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana.
  • All-time continental U.S. tropical cyclone rain records were broken.
  • Harvey triggered flash flooding in parts of Arkansas, 
  • Kentucky, and Tennessee from Aug. 31-Sept. 1.
  • There are estimates that put total losses at $75 billion
  • More than 30 people died due to the storm

Flood Vehicles

National news outlets initially reported the storm caused more than 500,000 vehicles to have flood damage. Now state departments are estimating that number will be closer to 750,000 to a million vehicles. A Cox Automotive economist is saying that’s worse than Hurricane Sandy, which saw about 250,000 vehicles flooded. The reasoning is there are more vehicle owners in Houston, the Nation’s fourth-largest city.

That leaves to question what is going to happen to all of the flood-damaged vehicles. Bruce Ormand, a director of the Texas Automotive Recyclers Association’s (TARA) and owner of A1 Partsmart in Austin, said the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will process vehicles that have insurance first. These vehicles will then receive a salvage or a non-repairable title. 

But, there are probably about 200,000 vehicles without insurance or that have only liability coverage that will fall through the cracks. No titles will be given to these vehicles that will designate them as flood vehicles. These are the vehicles news outlets are reporting could end up back in unsuspecting consumers’ hands due to an unscrupulous dealer.

The danger for an owner of a flooded vehicle lies in the amount of water the vehicle took on. If a vehicle was only in water up to its floor boards, then removing the water from the interior and replacing the ECM may allow it to run fine, said Ormand. But, it is when water is up to the hood and into the motor or electronic components that it becomes problematic. Also, the longer a vehicle is under water, the greater the damage.

Recycler Impact

As far as the auto recycler’s role in this process, Ormand believes many vehicles will end up being sold to self-service yards, which are usually attached to scrap processing facilities. Tens of thousands of Houston’s flood vehicles have already been designated to be bought by IAA and Copart. But, Ormand doesn’t believe these hundreds of thousands of salvage vehicles that enter the marketplace will lower the prices for auto recyclers.

“My thoughts are there are going to be more salvage and non-repairable vehicles for salvage, but it’s rare you see these go for cheap unless they were cheap cars you didn’t want in the first place,” he explained.

Those cars that will go for cheap, like the vehicles that ended up in a river or completely damaged, will only be cost effective for local Houston-area recyclers to buy for scrap, not those recyclers who operate out of the rest of Texas. It is undetermined if these hulls will have an impact on scrap prices because it will take a very long time for them to be processed. Clean up is still underway and many residents haven’t made claims on their vehicles yet.

Whatever the outcome turns out to be for the auto recycling and scrap industries, Ormand said one thing was for sure: Texas will be dealing with this devastation for at least eight months.

Round Two

Before the country could take a breath once Harvey diminished, it was already on red alert due to Hurricane Irma. Irma, a Category 5 hurricane, hit Florida on Monday, September 11, that’s after it made its way through the Caribbean, devastating islands along the way including several of the Leeward Islands, especially Barbuda. Floridians were somewhat lucky as the hurricane was downgraded to a tropical storm once it made landfall. That’s not to say it didn’t still pack a punch.

The storm’s wind caused massive amounts of debris and cut power to 20.6 million residents, according to the Washington Post. Rains flooded the Keys and caused flash flooding in both Jacksonville, Fla. and Charleston, S.C. Irma ended up affecting Florida, Georgia and South Carolina; 30 people were killed in the United States and at least 30 in the Caribbean. All of the flooded will only add to the number of flood vehicles that scrap processors, auto recyclers and consumers will have to deal with for years to come.

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