Hurricane Laura, which on Wednesday strengthened to a powerful Category 4 storm, threatens to destroy hundreds of thousands of homes along the Texas and Louisiana coasts, possibly inflicting billions of dollars' worth of damage on the at-risk areas' residences.
Nearly 600,000 single-family and multifamily homes, which would cost roughly $125 billion to rebuild if destroyed, are within the hurricane's projected reach, according to a report from CoreLogic, a provider of global property information and analysis.
The estimate reflects expected damage from the hurricane's storm surge — the abnormal rise of water above usual tide movements.
"We don't know exactly where the storm will make landfall, and storm surge from the eye can vary, so we identify all structures within the watch area. When we total up all the potential locations that could be impacted, clearly it's a huge number," said Dr. Tom Jeffery, senior hazard scientist at CoreLogic.
To be sure, Hurricane Laura, no matter how powerful a storm it becomes, is not expected to destroy all 600,000 homes in its path. The estimate is a worst-case-scenario of sorts that takes into account the uncertainty of predicting hurricane movements and strengths.
"We don't want to mislead and suggest that all of these homes will be affected. Some of them will, others will not — and some will be to a lesser degree," Jeffery said.
The hurricane, at its current strength, as of Wednesday, threatens more than 200,000 residential properties in the Houston, Texas area, which would cost nearly $45 billion to rebuild, according to CoreLogic.
Nearly 100,000 homes in Lafayette, Louisiana, are also at risk, and face a combined reconstruction value of more than $20 billion if they were to be completely destroyed, according to the report.
Researchers will asses the destruction once it occurs, and provide a more precise damage calculation then, Jeffrey added.
"That is the work we start after landfall," he said.
The home values are based solely on the price of the structures, not the land they occupy. CoreLogic's calculations include rebuilding materials as well as the cost of labor, and take into account the location, size and design of the homes.
Of course, homebuilding industries, including manufacturing and construction, are still dealing with the effects of the spread of the coronavirus and the economic shutdown caused by the virus earlier this year. The pandemic could limit the availability of necessary materials, and whether factories can operate at full capacity and even the availability of imports.
"Certainly, what crosses my mind, is if we might see a shortage of any of the products that go into building a home," Jeffery said.