Almost half of over 13,500 survey respondents had to leave their homes and were displaced for an average of 20 weeks as a result of Hurricane Harvey, according to initial results of the Hurricane Harvey Registry shared to the public on Feb. 21.
Mayor Sylvester Turner released the first public report of the Hurricane Harvey Registry, a collection of surveys completed by the people of Houston to detail the amount of environmental exposure and health effects received as a result of the event, at Houston City Hall on Thursday.
“We’ve repeatedly said, over and over again, that we want to build the city stronger, make it more resilient. We aren’t building back, we’re building forward,” Turner said. “People are still recovering. When it rains, and it keeps raining, they’re looking out the window.”
Along with 46 percent of respondents having been displaced by the storm, the results indicated that about 44 percent had their houses flooded, 55 percent had their house damaged, 41 percent experienced income loss and 34 percent sustained vehicle damage.
Along with property damage, the survey also indicated the amount of those whose health problems could be directly linked to the hurricane, with about half having experienced runny noses, over a quarter reporting headaches and migraines, roughly a fifth reporting shortness of breath and about a tenth saying that they experienced skin rashes.
Loren Raun, the chief environmental science officer at the Houston Health Department, said that they are using the data from the survey in hopes to better connect community members adversely affected by the storm with health services like mold rehabilitation and asthma care.
With over 13,500 surveys completed already, the registry hopes to gain even more data in order to shed more light on the impact that Harvey had on the city, as well as to increase the city’s ability to prepare and react to a similar crisis in the future.
The registry is a joint venture by the city of Houston, Rice University, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Houston Health Department and health departments from surrounding counties.
The Hurricane Harvey Registry was modeled after the World Trade Center Health Registry for people adversely affected in the aftermath of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, in New York City, and is the only existing survey of its kind, according to Rice University Provost Marie Lynn Miranda.
“I hate to use this phrase because it seems a little bit off, but we lost the opportunity to learn from Katrina,” Miranda said. “The National Institutes of Health wanted to make sure that … we learned as much as we could from this storm both for people of our region and across the United States.”
The city of Houston encourages further public participation in the survey in order to get a clearer picture of Harvey’s effects on the city, with the survey already being offered in both English and Spanish, with versions in Vietnamese and Mandarin coming soon. There is no planned cut off time for participation in the survey.
“This will help to drive our recovery,” Turner said. “We need the information, we need the data, so this will help to provide and focus on our recovery.”