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Rita’s Local Bill: $111 Million

Although the worst of it missed Harris County, Hurricane Rita still caused tens of millions of dollars in damage locally, but nothing near what it could have with a direct hit. The official estimated damage total in Harris County now stands at $111 million, billions less than Tropical Storm Allison caused four years ago. Tax […]

Although the worst of it missed Harris County, Hurricane Rita still caused tens of millions of dollars in damage locally, but nothing near what it could have with a direct hit.

The official estimated damage total in Harris County now stands at $111 million, billions less than Tropical Storm Allison caused four years ago. Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt says the damage was so minor that appraisers actually used a computer model to estimate most of it. “$111 million is just a fraction of the $200 billion that we have in property value here in Harris County. If the storm had come closer, we would have been talking about billions and tens of billions of dollars worth of damage, so we really missed the bullet and the ricochet.” he says.

About $75 million of the damage was caused by power outages that ruined food inventories in area grocery stores, restaurants and convenience stores. Those businesses were forced to throw out spoiled dairy products, meat and other perishables. “When you have 70-percent of the grid out, it means you’re going to hit a big percentage of the 1.2 million homes and businesses that are in the county. It’s amazing how fast the numbers add up on inventory spoilage,” says Bettencourt.

As Rita made landfall, most of of the county experienced tropical storm-type winds, with gusts up to 75 miles per hour in some areas. Those winds caused an estimated $15 million in damage, a relatively small total compared to the amount of property in Harris County. Jim Robinson is the county’s chief appraiser. “Maybe you’d see a house and it would have three shingles peeled back. Probably if you just used a rule of thumb for the whole county, about one house in 600 or 700 had some shingle damage. There were a few commercial structures that had the roof structure peeled back. There was some new construction where tar paper was on the roof and that got completely blown off,” he says.

Centerpoint Energy says it sustained $20 million in damage, mostly due to downed power lines and repair costs. Glass windows in several downtown office buildings were also blown out, causing $100,000 in damage. Forty of those windows were in the Chase Tower, the tallest building in Houston.

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