When Hurricane Harvey slammed into the Texas coast on Aug. 25, it triggered a 1-in-1,000-year flood event that dropped at least 30 inches of rain on an area equivalent to the size of Maryland. Some regions of South Texas received more than 50 inches (!) of rain.
“In looking at many of these events [in the United States], I’ve never seen anything of this magnitude or size,” Shane Hubbard, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin’s Space Science and Engineering Center, told The Washington Post. “This is something that hasn’t happened in our modern era of observations.”
According to CNN/Money, Moody’s Analytics estimates that “property losses will total between $45 billion to $65 billion, while economic losses will add $6 billion to $10 billion. A $75 billion price tag would make it the second most costly natural disaster. Superstorm Sandy in 2012, which currently ranks second, caused $73 billion in damage when adjusted into today’s dollars.
While the raging floodwaters chased an estimated 30,000 people from their homes and killed at least 50 people, the sports world in the Houston area came to halt. But the people who play those sports didn’t take a break.
J.J. Watt, the NFL’s three-time Defensive Player of the Year for the Houston Texans, made the biggest headlines by helping raise more than $19 million (and counting) for recovery efforts. Watt initially took to social media in the early days after Harvey made landfall in the hopes of collecting $250,000.
As of Sept. 4, more than 177,000 donors were pushing toward the latest goal of $20 million. You can still contribute here. On the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, Watt and his Texans teammates delivered much-needed supplies to people struggling in the aftermath of Harvey’s destruction. All of the trucks and goods were donated, and Watt said he hadn’t spent “a single cent” of the money he raised.
“I know people are trusting me with their money,” Watt told CBSSports.com. “I’m taking my time, I’m going to make sure I do this thing right. Because this is a long-term project. This is not a one-day, not a one-week, not a one-year project.”
Harvey’s impact was felt at all levels of sports. Here are just a few examples:
- Major League Baseball moved the Aug. 29-31 in-state, interleague rivalry series between the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., home of the Rays. The Astros were designated the home team. When the Astros returned home to play a doubleheader on Sept. 2 against the New York Mets at Minute Maid Park — located less than a half-mile from the George R. Brown Convention Center, where thousands of storm victims sought shelter — the team provided free tickets to volunteers, first responders and evacuees. (At least one event at the convention center, a designer furniture sample sale, was postponed to make room for evacuees.)
- The final preseason game for the Texans and Dallas Cowboys, slated for Aug. 31, was moved from Houston’s NRG Stadium (which was not damaged by flooding) to AT&T Stadium in Arlington before being canceled altogether so Texans players could be with their families and aid in relief efforts.
- NRG Stadium also was scheduled to host the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff between LSU and BYU on Sept. 2. That game was relocated to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
- The Houston Dynamo, the city’s Major League Soccer franchise, rescheduled one game and postponed at least one more. Meanwhile, Houston’s National Women’s Soccer League team, the Dash, moved its home game against the Seattle Reign from BBVA Compass Stadium to Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas. The United Soccer League also rescheduled the game between San Antonio FC and the Portland Timbers 2.
- Houston-area high school football teams suspended their seasons indefinitely, with the goal of resuming play on Sept. 15. One of the cancelled games was scheduled to be the first competition at Katy ISD’s Legacy Stadium — the most expensive high school facility in the country, with a $70.3 million price tag.
- Golf courses in the greater Houston area suffered major flooding, and the head of the Houston Golf Association said it could be months before they dry out. “The longer you keep water on turf, the more silt and turf damage you’re going to have,” Steve Timms told Golf Course Management magazine. “I just can’t even start imagining how much damage there will be. Obviously, it’ll be significant.”
- As disruptive as the storm was, the outpouring of support from the sports world was uplifting and refreshing. Witness Watt and his efforts. Here are some more feel-good stories that rose to the surface:
- Matt Ruhle and Gary Patterson, head football coaches at Baylor and Texas Christian universities, respectively, reached out to the University of Houston and offered their facilities as practice sites. And with players from Houston or elsewhere in South Texas on nearly every Football Bowl Subdivision team’s roster, coaches around the country departed from their routines and gave players the weekend off from practice, helped players contact their families and started collecting money and supplies for those in need. “We just want [our players] to have constant contact with their families and loved ones,” Texas State head coach Everett Withers told 247sports.com.
- The Gymnastics Association of established the GAT Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund to help gymnastics clubs impacted by Harvey rebuild, refurbish, clean and recover. Many clubs are at or near a total loss, according to USA Gymnastics. The support will not only assist clubs in South Texas and Southeast Texas but also in Louisiana and other areas impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Donations to the GAT Hurricane Relief Fund may be made via the association’s website and/or Facebook page.
- Groups representing the USL’s FC Dallas and San Antonio FC are supporting the MSL’s Houston Dynamo with local and online fundraisers.
- High school athletes — football players, volleyball players, cross country runners — stepped up to help their communities clean up. “This is kind of uncharted waters, at least for me,” Aransas Pass High School head football coach and athletic director Ryan Knostman told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. “It’s going to go back to what we always tell the kids, life’s going to knock you down, it’s what you do afterwards. Our entire community is going to dust ourselves off and get going.”
- Bass Pro Shops, which has seven outdoor retail stores and seven boating centers in Texas (including three in the greater Houston area), donated more than 80 Tracker boats to government agencies and rescue organizations. The Springfield, Mo.-based company that is affiliated with NASCAR also donated at least $40,000 of worth of relief supplies through the American Red Cross and Convoy of Hope, a humanitarian organization.
- In what has to be one of the most colorful responses to the disaster, more than 70 hot-air balloons took to the sky on Labor Day weekend for the 2017 Colorado Springs Labor Day Lift Off. As part of the annual festivities, proceeds from this year’s Glaser Energy Chainsaw Carving Auction — a relatively new form of wood art — were donated to the American Red Cross of Southeastern Colorado and earmarked specifically for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.
As Watt said on a holiday weekend in the midst of personally delivering supplies to those impacted by Hurricane Harvey: “The devastation is incredible. The inspiration of the people is even more incredible.”
Here is a link to other ways to donate to relief efforts and keep the inspiration going.