Drone Footage Reveals Staggering Amount of Flooded Cars Destroyed by Hurricane Harvey

With half a million cars flooded in the Houston area, they all have to go somewhere.

Instagram | @texasaerials

It's almost hard to believe in this hyperactive hurricane season, but Harvey's ongoing reign of destruction in southeast Texas began just three short weeks ago. Over that time, the storm claimed more than 80 lives, inflicted untold billions of dollars in damage, and reshaped an entire region. Some communities are still covered with floodwaters, now a toxic mix of sewage and petrochemicals. And because the Houston area is so driving-centric—and the flooding so biblical—the rising waters engulfed an estimated half a million vehicles.

For a place that's built around the car, losing so many in one fell swoop is a problem in more ways than one. The first and most pressing issue has been getting replacements for owners so people can return to their lives and get back to work and school to help power the region's recovery. It also didn't take long for many to raise the alert that flooded vehicles often make their way back into the used car supply chain and into the hands of unknowing buyers. But in the meantime, officials needed to figure out just where to keep hundreds of thousands of them.

Fortunately, if there's one thing Texas is blessed with, it's space. Authorities turned two area racetracks—the disused Texas World Speedway, and the very-much-used Royal Purple Raceway—into massive open-air storage pens, trucking in cars by the thousand on flatbeds in a mammoth logistical operation. A drone photographer who goes by @texasaerials on Instagram recently flew a DJI Spark over the scene at Royal Purple Raceway, and the resulting video and images are mind-boggling in scale.

You'll have to squint to pick out individual makes and models in the aerial footage, but pictures from reporters on the ground show the storm was truly egalitarian in its destruction, swamping Ferraris and Kias alike. We don't even want to think about the mold blossoming inside these cars as they slowly steam in the hot Texas sun. The track alone could reportedly end up taking in 100,000 cars as more roll in daily. Autoweek reports its owners negotiated a six month contract with Copart, the salvage auction specialists running the operation, so drag racing should resume there by February.

The scene at Texas World Speedway is eerily similar, with all manner of cars parked together in neat rows as far as the eye can see. The cars will wait here until they're processed by insurance companies, reclaimed by dealers, or scrapped outright.