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A weather-beaten economy

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Tornadoes have been the deadliest of the weather phenomena that have afflicted the US this year. Even prior to the tragedy of June 11, in which four Boy Scouts died when a twister hit their camp in western Iowa, 2008 was shaping up as the worst year for tornado fatalities in a decade.

But the heavy rain of the last few weeks has perhaps had a greater impact on the regional economy.

Flood damage in central Indiana, for instance, now totals an estimated $126 million, according to a study co-written by Michael Hicks, an economist at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. Ruined public infrastructure – roads, bridges, sewers – accounts for $45 million of this cost. Inundated homes and private businesses account for the rest.

In Nebraska, nearly two-thirds of the state's 93 counties have been affected by the severe weather, according to Gov. Dave Heineman. Public infrastructure damage is now $20 million and may rise.

In Illinois and Missouri, the Mississippi River may reach flood levels not seen since 1993, according to the National Weather Service. Barge traffic in this stretch of the Big Muddy may be halted for as long as two weeks.

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