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Colorado flood damage

Colorado Flood Losses Could Exceed $1 Billion

Colorado flood damageThe unprecedented flooding ravaging Colorado is hurting businesses in myriad ways, from health risks and environmental damage associated with flooded oil fields to fewer tourists visiting the state.

The Denver Post reports that thousands of oil wells and sites have been affected and some are still being overrun by rushing water, making it difficult for officials to accurately assess damage. Officials fear that pollution resulting from the flooded oil wells will combine with sewage, agricultural pesticides, gasoline from gas stations and other contaminants.

Many of the sites were shut down last week in anticipation of the environmental damage, and officials are not sure if the soil or groundwater has been contaminated, CBS Denver reports.

The heavy rainfall and flash flooding left eight people dead, according to various reports.

The Weather Channel estimates that damages from the flooding could exceed $1 billion, once the damages to infrastructure, housing and agriculture have been assessed.

The state also has a thriving tourism industry, which is essential to the economy of some of the high-country areas. MSN Money reports that tourists brought in $8.6 billion in 2009, and there are big concerns that the floods — combined with last year’s wildfires — will keep the tourists from visiting Colorado.

While the flooding has hurt businesses themselves, many companies are stepping up to help flood victims. Fast-food restaurant Smashburger is offering free meals to first responders, Gold’s Gym is opening its showers and locker rooms to displaced flood victims, banks like JP Morgan Chase are donating cash, and other firms are donating goods or initiating drives to collect items for the victims, the Post reports.

The Colorado floods are yet another example of small businesses facing extreme weather challenges. A report from Small Business Majority and the American Sustainable Business Council published in July says the retail, tourism, landscape architecture, agriculture, roofing and small-scale manufacturing sectors are more vulnerable to the financial implications of climate change than their larger corporate counterpart.

A Small Business Majority opinion poll released a month earlier found that the majority of small employers — about 60 percent — believe climate change and extreme weather events are an urgent problem that can disrupt the economy and harm businesses.

Extreme weather events like the Colorado floods, the ongoing drought in the Western US  and Hurricane Sandy affect businesses and expose the US’ economic vulnerability to climate change, according to the 500 firms including Nike and GM that have signed Ceres’ Climate Declaration. The declaration calls upon federal policymakers to address climate change as an economic opportunity.

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