Extreme Weather Events and the Performance of Critical Utility Infrastructures: A Case Study of Hurricane Harvey
Natural disasters have considerable economic and social ramifications by disrupting public utility services, such as power outages, disconnecting phone service, and transportation interruptions. This study seeks to understand the performance and resilience of critical infrastructure systems in Houston, Texas, using Hurricane Harvey (2017) as a case study. We surveyed five hundred residents of the Houston Metropolitan Statistical Area after Hurricane Harvey's landfall. Our initial data analysis concentrated on the number of homes that reported interruptions in electricity, water, phone/cellphone, Internet, public transportation, places of employment, and grocery stores. We also estimate the duration of each type of disruption. Around 69% of the respondents reported electricity disruption, while half (49%) had no water supply for up to six days. Two-thirds of the surveyed households did not have internet access, and 47% had their phone services disconnected. Finally, around 70% of the respondents could not commute to their workplace, while 71% could not buy groceries for their families. We incorporated the household survey responses into the Dynamic Inoperability Input-Output Model (DIIM) to estimate inoperability and economic losses in multiple linked sectors. The total economic loss (GDP) was over $6 billion, and workforce disruption is the major challenge that policymakers must consider. Understanding the resilience of each sector and the inherent interdependencies across the sectors can provide helpful input to policymakers for disaster risk management, notably preparedness and recovery planning for future events.