In Harvey's Wake

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Hurricane Harvey has directly or indirectly taken the lives of as least 88 Texans, according to preliminary numbers released Friday by the Department of State Health Services.

The majority of deaths – 62 – were caused by wind, rain and floods, which led to drownings or trees falling on people. 

Meanwhile, 26 deaths were caused by "unsafe or unhealthy conditions" related to the loss or disruption of services such as utilities, transportation and medical care. The state health agency found deaths caused by medical conditions, electrocution, traffic accidents, flood water-related infections, fires and burns.

Deaths from natural causes are considered indirectly related to Harvey if physical or mental stress caused by the storm exacerbated "pre-existing medical conditions and contributed to death," the agency said.

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The agency said another five deaths could be related to Harvey, but there's still not enough information to prove a connection. The final death count for Harvey isn't expected to be released until next year. 

The preliminary death toll is lower than that from Hurricane Rita in 2005, when a chaotic evacuation caused 73 deaths before the hurricane even reached Texas. That was more than half of the 139 deaths attributed to Rita, which veered away from Houston at the last minute and made landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border.

A dozen smaller Texas cities ordered residents to evacuate before Harvey, a category 4 hurricane that hit the Texas coast between Port Aransas and Port O'Connor on Aug. 25. Corpus Christi issued a voluntary evacuation, while Houston and Harris County — which didn't get a direct hit but experienced historic rainfall and flooding — didn't issue evacuation orders.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • Building in the reservoirs led to thousands of flooded homes, increased the risk for surrounding areas and threatened their earthen dams. [Full story]

  • Between the federal government, the Red Cross and private charities, billions of dollars will be spent to help Hurricane Harvey victims in Texas. The Tribune is tracking how it's spent. [Full story]

  • State officials estimate that it will take $60 billion in long-term federal funds to repair and replace the houses, buildings and infrastructure Harvey damaged. [Full story]

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