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Purdue researchers to assess impact of damage from Midwest floods

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Researchers from Purdue University’s Division of Construction Engineering Management and the Purdue Homeland Security Institute are working with local, state and federal agencies to assess the economic, social and psychological impact of this summer’s extensive flooding throughout the Midwest.

Through the National Science Foundation project, the researchers will canvass three communities to collect data and distribute surveys to determine the extent of flood damage and the toll it is having on communities.

Residents in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Missouri are still grappling with an estimated $10 billion in damage from the flooding, which killed 24 people and injured another 150 people in June and July. Initially, Purdue’s six-month study will focus on some of the hardest hit communities – Cedar Rapids, Iowa; St. Louis; and Terre Haute, Ind.

“The main reason for much of the widespread flood damage was infrastructure failures,” said Eric Dietz, director of Discovery Park’s Homeland Security Institute. “The collapse of a bridge, road, home, business, hospital, church or other critical structure can devastate a community, creating social and emotional stresses that can have lasting effects on people’s lives.”

Researchers, led by civil engineering professor Mark Hastak, will conduct personal interviews and distribute surveys to those living in and around the flooded communities. Survey answers will provide demographic information about the residents, how long they have lived in the community, and the infrastructure and businesses that are a part of their regular daily lives.

Researchers will work closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Red Cross and other local agencies involved with infrastructure planning and maintenance, Hastak said.

Congress has earmarked $10 billion for Midwest flood relief. Flood damage in Indiana is expected to reach $1 billion. Estimates are far higher in Iowa, where communities such as Cedar Rapids had 1,300 city blocks under water, forcing the evacuation of 24,000 residents.

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