Did you dream of a white Christmas? Unless you live in a warm weather state, you probably got it - America and the rest of the world saw record snowfall in 2010. Last year was a snowy one all the way around: flights were cancelled and roads, stores and offices closed, affecting anyone trying to go anywhere. So what does all this pretty white snow cost us? Here's a breakdown of the most expensive snowstorms of 2010, and some of the price tags attached to these winter messes. (For another interesting read, check out 5 Businesses That Rise As The Temperature Falls.)
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If you were traveling over Christmas in 2010, you probably felt the effects of the Northeast blizzard. Record snowfall closed airports, costing airlines an estimated $150 million to pay for crew overtime, ticket refunds, traveler lodging, de-icing, snow removal - just to make you feel better in case you were one of the displaced holiday travelers.
Airlines weren't the ones footing the biggest bill for the Northeast blizzard, however; retailers took the biggest financial blow at the tune of an estimated $1 billion in lost revenue. Although the snow didn't wreak its havoc until the Christmas holiday weekend, retailers missed out on crucial post-holiday sale traffic - in the Northeast, after-Christmas customer traffic was down a whopping 42.9% compared to last year.
This snowstorm happened earlier in the year, in February of 2010, making it easy to forget Mother Nature dropped more snow on the east coast than ever recorded. Lost productivity in Washington D.C. due to closed offices is estimated to have cost a hefty $450 million. Add to this the expensive of snow removal - Virginia used up its entire budget on the $105 million price tag of moving the massive snowfall it had to deal with. The real cost of Snowmageddon may be much bigger in our struggling economy though: economist estimate 90,000 to 150,000 jobs were lost due to the standstill associated with the weather.
America wasn't the only country hit by record snowfall; our Canadian friends saw their share of blizzards as well. Mid-December 2010, Ontario was caught in a snowstorm that shut down highways and stranded 300 motorists. A side-effect to the closed roads: the supply of auto parts to Ontario's auto plants was disrupted, costing automakers in lost productivity. Although Ford and GM, automakers with plants in Ontario, are vague about cost, GM plant workers were sent home early during the Ontario snowstorm due to parts shortage - which is bound to be an expensive side effect of December's Ontario blizzard.
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When you plan your European vacation, you don't expect to sleep on an airport floor, waiting for the snow to melt - but that's exactly what awaited travelers at London's Heathrow airport. The overcrowded airport already had a bad reputation when it comes to dealing with contingencies (remember 2009's ash cloud travel mess?), which was made even worse in December of 2010. A mere 3.5 inches of snowfall left flights halted at Heathrow, with workers run out of de-icer, turning the terminal into a rowdy trap for angry travelers.
Heathrow officials state that they have six million pounds (about $9 million U.S.) in snow-clearing equipment, but it wasn't enough to keep their flights moving during December's snowstorm. Heathrow's reputation is so tarnished as a result of the December snowfall, its boss Colin Matthews gave up his annual bonus as a concession, proving that snow can be a powerful force indeed.
The Bottom Line
Time will tell what kind of weather we'll face in 2011. If 2010 taught us anything, it's to be ready for the unexpected. Stock up, have a shovel ready and expect for that pretty white snow to come with a not-so-pretty price tag. Oh, and if you're traveling to Europe in winter, you may want to think twice about stopping at Heathrow airport. (For related reading, also check out 4 Ways To Weather An Economic Storm.)
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