Monday, July 28, 2008

Region hit hard by 1993 floods showed economic resiliency, study indicates

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: With the first wave of clean-up efforts behind them, residents of communities affected by this year’s Midwest floods may find hope in a University of Illinois study on the economic impact of the 1993 flood that devastated much of the same region.

“Viewing the regional economy as a whole suggests significant economic resiliency to the flood,” according to U. of I. urban and regional planning doctoral student Yu Xiao. Her recently completed dissertation focuses on adjustments in the local labor market and overall economic impacts of the 1993 flood on 516 Midwest communities. Xiao’s research also includes an in-depth case study of Grafton, Ill., a tourist town at the junction of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers that was singled out by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for its flood-mitigation and recovery efforts.

Despite having the distinction of being the costliest U.S. flood of the 20th century – resulting in $20 billion in economic losses – the 1993 flood “caused very minimal or only temporary negative economic impacts in the year of the event, measured by gross domestic product, the unemployment rate and the number of businesses,” Xiao said. “Two years after the event, there were no discernable aggregate effects on these economic indicators at the regional, state and county levels.”

And amid all the mud, muck and destruction, there were even a few silver linings. According to Xiao, who presented her research findings earlier this month at the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning-Association of European Schools of Planning Joint Congress in Chicago and at the Annual Hazards Research and Applications Workshop in Broomfield, Colo., the gross domestic product of counties that experienced flood damage in 1993 received a “significant boost in 1994.”

….While such findings may be cause for optimism for those still mired in recovery efforts resulting from this year’s flooding – as well as for those who may be impacted by future disasters – Xiao’s research revealed that there’s actually more to the economic-recovery picture in many communities than what appears on the surface.

Photo by L. Brian Stauffer, on the website of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Urban and regional plannning doctoral student Yu Xiao's dissertation research focused on the economic impact on the Midwest of the devastating 1993 flood. Her adviser was professor Ed Feser.

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