While Houston and other parts of Texas and Louisiana are recovering from Hurricane Harvey, other parts of the country are also being impacted by that storm. This includes Florida where gas prices have been on the rise after Harvey hit Houston earlier this week.
Sunshine State News reached out to Liz Claman, who anchors “Countdown to the Closing Bell with Liz Claman” on the Fox Business Network (FBN) from 3pm-4pm ET. Before joining FBN in 2007, Claman served as an anchor at CNBC, where she anchored “Morning Call,” “Wake Up Call,” “Market Watch” and “Today’s Business.” Before CNBC, Claman, a two-time Emmy Award winner, served as an anchor and reporter for Boston’s WHDH-TV (NBC). She was also a contributing correspondent for NBC’s syndicated daytime program “RealLife.” Prior to that, she anchored a two-hour daily talk show, “The Morning Exchange” for WEWS-TV (ABC) in Cleveland. She received an Emmy for her work on “The Morning Exchange.”
A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and the Sorbonne in Paris, Claman began her on-air career at WSYX-TV (ABC) in Columbus, OH as a reporter and later a weekend anchor. Earlier, she was a news associate for KCBS-TV (CBS) in Los Angeles where she was the youngest person in the station’s history to win a local Emmy Award for Best Spot News Producer. Claman is a member of the Board of Directors of the American Theatre Wing and is a Tony Award voter. She is an active fundraiser for Building Homes for Heroes, an organization that builds mortgage-free homes for severely wounded soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. She has completed 7 triathlons and one New York City marathon.
SSN: What type of economic impact do you expect to see Harvey have in the short run?
LC: Significant. For all intents and purposes, Southeastern Texas is a disaster zone. Think about it: thousands upon thousands of businesses small and large are flooded, their employees are displaced, and their store shelves can’t be restocked due to unpassable roads. The disastrous domino effect cannot be overstated. I have covered many hurricanes during my career. In 1992, I was sent by my station in Cleveland to cover Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 monster storm. It had already trashed southern Florida but it was heading straight for Louisiana. We went down to where the eye of the hurricane was expected to hit---New Iberia, Louisiana. Packing more than 150 mile per hour winds, it was devastating but it blew through Louisiana within 24 hours and was pretty much gone by the next afternoon. Harvey stuck around for days, adding insult to injury. Wind damage is one thing; but 50 and more inches of rainfall will, in the short term, be a massive kick to the solar plexis of the economy.
SSN: What kind of economic impact do you think Harvey will have over the long haul?
LC: Knowing the governor, it’s evident to me that he will not allow Texas to become “post-Katrina Louisiana Part Deux.” It’s been years since Katrina hit New Orleans and there are still people who never recovered and, until recently, still lived in temporary housing. Texas is ready, willing and able to start drying out and rebuilding. The front page of the New York Post today has a picture of a police officer rescuing a little boy from knee-deep flooding with a huge headline that reads, “Don’t Mess with Texas." I give the economy less than a year before the state recovers just about everything, but the human loss will never be forgotten… the four kids whose car was swept away… the brave police officer who jumped in his patrol car to help and was overcome by flood waters. That never goes away.
SSN: Gas prices have risen in Florida since Harvey hit. How long should Floridians expect higher prices at the pump due to the hurricane and its damage?
LC: The Colonial Pipeline services Florida, Alabama, South Carolina and every other eastern seaboard state all the way up to New Jersey. That pipeline is the carotid artery of fuel transport from the refineries on the Gulf of Mexico’s coast all the way up the East Coast. That “artery” has been offline since Monday. Gasoline futures immediately spiked in anticipation of a temporary supply crunch. Week over week, prices have jumped a minimum of 4 cents a gallon. By the way, a penny added to the price of gasoline is like a $1 billion dollar tax on Americans. So you’re talking about real money here. But even if the pipeline were working, the refineries along the Gulf Coast aren’t. Close to 25 percent of the nation’s refinery capacity is offline due to flooding and damage. But I’m talking to oil traders who are telling me stockpiles of oil and gasoline pre-storm were at or near historic highs and they don’t anticipate months of higher prices for Floridians and beyond.
SSN: How much of an impact do you think Harvey can have on businesses when it comes to tourism and travel plans?
LC: Texans affected by the storm most likely won’t be thinking about traveling to Florida or anywhere else for that matter, at least for awhile. Flood damage is so traumatic and the recovery is terribly time-consuming and costly. However, Florida is a prime tourist destination for global travelers so I would imagine Florida businesses related to the tourism industry won’t be harshly affected.
SSN: How do you think Harvey's impact will impact the economy compared to other major storms like Andrew and Katrina?
LC: Harvey’s price-tag is a moving target. It’s too early to tell. Yesterday it was estimated at $57 billion dollars. Today, I’m seeing anywhere from $75 to $90 billion dollars. To put that into perspective, Katrina back in 2005 did $128 billion in damages. Andrew, $43 billion. Superstorm Sandy wasn’t even a hurricane and it crushed New York and New Jersey to the tune of $72 billion. As horrific as that may sound, rebuilding actually helps economies. Job creation sprouts as homebuilders, architects, oil workers, and engineers are in great demand. While I suspect Harvey could end up being one of the most expensive natural disasters in history, I’d say this: Never count out the American spirit. I see it every time. Even the hardest hit places come back fighting.