(ANTIMEDIA) Houston, TX — It is estimated that Hurricane Harvey caused $125 billion in damage last year, making it the second-costliest storm to ever hit the United States. In terms of dollars, only 2005’s Hurricane Katrina was more destructive.
But there’s one area where Harvey takes the top spot. According to a new report from Car and Driver, the Category 4 storm, which reached wind speeds of nearly 135 mph, destroyed more vehicles than any other single event in American history.
Of the roughly one million cars that were taken out of commission by the storm, mostly through flooding, half were in the Houston metro area alone. Car and Driver’s John Pearley Huffman spent four days in and around the city assessing how Houston’s auto industry dealt with the devastation.
Vincent Liggio, who runs a small fleet of tow trucks out of the Houston suburb of Dickinson, told Huffman that at first he just responded to calls from law enforcement but soon realized the damage was too extensive and he needed to take initiative.
“After a while, there were so many of them, they just said clear the roads, and I’d call the dispatcher and tell them what I’d picked up,” he said. “It didn’t show mercy on anybody. It just took the cars.”
Though it may sound as if Liggio made a killing off Harvey’s aftermath, think again. The same floodwaters that ruined the vehicles he was towing wrecked havoc on his fleet. In fact, at the time Huffman was interviewing him, Liggio had lost three of his trucks and was looking to borrow another.
“I have the drivers, but I don’t have trucks,” he said. “By the time I fix my trucks and stuff, I’m going to lose money.”
For Carter Dale, whose family owns and runs local McRee Ford, lost cars equate to lost product. In all, Dale’s dealership had to scrap around 1,100 vehicles in its inventory. About 450 of those were brand new vehicles.
“The water came in everywhere,” he told Huffman. “We had to destroy $61,000 worth of new tires. Drilled holes in all of them. The insides of tires aren’t made to get wet.”
The only bright spot for the Dales was that Harvey’s widespread destruction made the month of September the best ever for the dealership in terms of new car sales, with 385 units moved. That one facet, however, was hardly worth the overall price, family patriarch Mitchell Dale told Huffman:
“But I don’t want to go through another hurricane to have another record month.”
With so many ruined vehicles in a single geographic area, an obvious problem became where exactly to store them until they could be fixed, auctioned, or outright junked. In a bit of irony, the solution was to tow the lifeless automobiles to local racetracks.
Drone footage taken over Royal Purple Raceway and Texas World Speedway shows the mind-boggling scale of just how decimating Harvey’s floodwaters truly were. There, rows upon rows of vehicles sit waiting to be assessed and, more than likely, hauled off to be crushed and melted down.
To view the situation in context, consider that Houston, with 2.3 million residents, is the country’s fourth-largest city. Including the surrounding suburbs, that figure jumps up to 6.3 million. Any way you slice it, that means there were an awful lot of cars waiting to be destroyed when Harvey made landfall back in August.
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