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Flood economic impact numbers are trickling in

Two professors released Thursday afternoon a preliminary report that begins to try to gauge the economic impact of the Mississippi River flood.

The report by Dr. Michael Hicks, director of Ball State University’s Center for Business and Economic Research, and Dr. Mark Burton, director of transportation economics at the University of Tennessee’s Center for Transportation Research, estimates the total financial impact for the Greater Memphis area to be $753 million.

That takes into account damage to commercial structures, commercial equipment, residential structures, residential contents and an “other damages” category that covers crop losses, public infrastructure and utility repair costs, emergency response costs and telecommunications repair costs. The figures are based on flood damage models developed for waterways in Mississippi and Tennessee over the last decade, and have been used in assessing damage from Hurricane Katrina, the River flood of 2008 and the Pakistani floods of 2010. Hicks and Burton point out that the estimates represent whole hog losses, not just those from insured areas, and that insurance companies will likely have a different impact number once they start their damage assessments.

Specifically, the Memphis figures were derived using historical data from the upper Mississippi River flood of 1993, which did to the Midwest what the River is currently doing to Mississippi and will eventually do to Louisiana.

Magnolia Marketplace emailed Hicks and Burton to see if they planned to look specifically at anywhere in Mississippi.

“We might, but the actual extent of the flood location is a bit fluid (if you’ll pardon the pun),” Hicks wrote in an email Monday morning.

Hicks went on to estimate that up and down the Mississippi — from Minnesota to New Orleans — damage costs would reach between $7 billion and $9 billion.

“This will mostly be clustered in residential structures and contents and business structures and equipment,” Hicks wrote. “I think the public infrastructure element will be less than in other comparable circumstances (with the exception of those areas very proximal to opened floodgates, where the speed of water flow will severely damage roadways).”

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