On Monday, the East Coast began bouncing back from winter storm Jonas, which dumped as much as 30 inches of snow in some U.S. cities over the weekend. In Washington, D.C., federal and local government offices were closed and many workers faced a struggle to get to work as roads were being plowed and the city’s public-transit system offered extremely limited service. Additionally, an estimated 12,000 flights have been canceled in the U.S. due to the storm.
That will make for countless inconvenienced workers, but the real burden is the financial costs of a storm. First, the price to clean up a city is steep: In New York, according to a study by the city controller, it’s estimated to cost $1.8 million per inch. Second, winter storms tend to give rise to insurance claims—last year, Boston noted a high number of claims due to ice damage. And third, a number of stores and businesses close because it’s unsafe for workers to commute or their customers are cooped up at home.
Chris Christopher, a macroeconomist at the data-analytics firm IHS Global Insight, first estimated that Jonas’s economic impact would be between $350 million and $850 million—a number that accounts for the cost of not doing business as well as hourly workers' lost wages, among other things. On Monday, after seeing the storm’s impact (particularly on the Jersey Shore), he revised that up to between $500 million and $1 billion. Of the industries affected by the storm, Christopher says that services popular on weekends—such as restaurant and entertainment workers—would turn out to be the most affected, since the blizzard hit late Friday and well into Saturday. It’s these hourly workers who were affected by the storm much more than salaried office workers, who get paid even during inclement weather.