The Mississippi River may have reached its crest, but that doesn’t mean state agencies or private sector businesses can start to evaluate the financial hit they have taken from the historic flood.
Water started receding the third week of May, but it has so far been a slow drop. National Weather Service officials estimate that in towns like Greenville and Vicksburg, the River will remain above flood stage well into June. As long as the water is high, safety- and prevention-related expenses will continue to mount.
Two university professors with a history of flood damage cost estimation have said the total impact from Minnesota to New Orleans could reach $9 billion.
Laura Hipp, spokesperson for Gov. Haley Barbour, said Mississippi’s portion of that will not be known until water along the Mississippi River and its backwater tributaries is once again confined to its banks.
“State agencies will begin examining the economic impact of the flood once the waters recede, when the damage can be accurately measured,” Hipp wrote in an email to the Mississippi Business Journal.
Those figures will take into account damage-prevention costs and clean-up expenses, she said.
The same applies to non-governmental agencies. Entergy Mississippi has spent the past month or so shoring up its assets in the Delta, the region most vulnerable to high water.
“We’re still in the middle of the flood so we haven’t started putting together any kind of numbers,” Entergy Mississippi spokesperson Mara Hartmann said.
Hartmann said the utility company has contracted outside security firms to guard its lines, poles and power stations that are in harm’s way. With water levels still well above flood stage, those patrols will continue, making it difficult to get a decent grasp on exactly how much the historic flood will cost the company. Entergy began shutting off power to inundated areas several weeks ago.
“Like the tornadoes (that struck Mississippi in April), we have to wait to get invoices from vendors,” Hartmann said. “ It will most likely be a summer-long process to determine exactly what kind of impact we’re talking about. Right now, we still have flood-related expenses.”
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