FREE NEWSLETTER: Econintersect sends a nightly newsletter highlighting news events of the day, and providing a summary of new articles posted on the website. Econintersect will not sell or pass your email address to others per our privacy policy. You can cancel this subscription at any time by selecting the unsubscribing link in the footer of each email.

posted on 20 March 2016

Hey, Economist! How Well Do We Weather Snowstorms?

from Liberty Street Economics

-- this post is an interview with Jason Bram

Editors' note: With this post, Liberty Street Economics launches an occasional series featuring interviews with our economists about their areas of expertise or recent research. In today's post, Trevor Delaney, one of our publications editors, caught up with Jason Bram, a research officer in our Regional Analysis division to discuss how snowstorms do, or don't, affect New York City's economy. With a bit of snow expected here this weekend, the timing is auspicious.

Q: Tell us about the "weekend snowstorm" effect in New York City.

A: The short answer is that major New York snowstorms are remarkably likely to occur on weekends. If we focus on snowstorms that dumped more than fifteen inches in Central Park, there has been a total of sixteen major storms in the past seventy-five years, spanning anywhere from one to three days. Then if we narrow that group to storms that began on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday - and call those "weekend snowstorms" - one would expect about 43 percent (three of seven) of them to fall on a weekend. Yet it turns out that thirteen of the sixteen storms, or 81 percent, fell on a weekend.

Q: Thirteen out of sixteen? What are the odds of that?

A: They're remarkably low - a snowball's chance in hell! Of sixteen storms, you'd expect about seven to start on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday - that's because seven of sixteen works out to about the same proportion as three out of seven days of the week. The odds of thirteen or more falling on a weekend are 0.2 percent or 500 to 1.


Q: The last big blizzard in our region, in January, covered New York and several other East Coast cities with over two feet of snow. Does that much snow have any lasting economic impact?

A: Actually, there is no evidence (or theory) suggesting that major snowstorms affect the local economy for more than a couple days. Sure, the January storm disrupted travel for a day or so and cost the City and others quite a bit of money. Public transit shut down for about twenty-four hours, and nonessential driving was banned for almost as long. Most restaurants and shops, not to mention Broadway theatres, closed down for Saturday afternoon and evening and, of course, construction projects and other outdoor activities had to halt. Yet, by Monday morning - or even early Sunday afternoon - much was back up and running.

Long lines at the grocery stores before the storm illustrate that this kind of storm typically merely shifts the timing of economic activity by a few days. Still, one can certainly empathize with theatergoers who, after waiting months to see "Hamilton," didn't get to go. The bottom line is, when you look at monthly or even weekly economic indicators, you rarely see a blip, even after the most severe blizzards.

Even a much more destructive and damaging storm like superstorm Sandy, which devastated many individuals and businesses, is unlikely to have much of a long-term economic impact - say, of more than a few weeks - except on some very localized areas.

"The bottom line is, when you look at monthly or even weekly economic indicators, you rarely see a blip, even after the most severe blizzards. "

---Jason Bram

Q: The January blizzard was yet another weekend storm. Would a weekday storm have had a bigger impact?

A: Probably not. Even the rare midweek storms do not have much of an economic impact. But their immediate disruptive effects hit different kinds of businesses and would tend to be more widespread. For instance, schools, construction firms, offices, and manufacturers, as well as restaurants and bars that cater to the workweek crowd, would tend to be less disrupted by a weekend storm. Yet nightclubs, some restaurants, and many tourist attractions would generally be happier with a midweek storm, since that's off-peak for them.

Q: How do economists evaluate the cost of a storm? Can it be measured with any precision?

A: Defining the cost of a storm is not as straightforward as it might seem. Cost to whom? Easiest to measure are direct costs, borne mostly by local governments for cleanup, dealing with accidents, overtime pay, salt, etc. But, of course, what's a cost to the taxpayer may be an overtime bonus to a sanitation worker, or a big payday for a guy with a snowplow or an entrepreneurial kid with a shovel. At least some of this money will find its way back into the local economy.

Then there is the cost of forgone economic activity - lost production, which means lost pay for some hourly workers and lost revenue for some businesses. Of course, much of that is made up very soon after the storm, which is why you typically don't even see a blip in monthly or even weekly economic indicators.

And finally, and probably hardest to measure, is what we call welfare or quality-of-life costs: extra time spent commuting, limited access to amenities, and disruptions to travel plans. But there are offsets here too, like the millions of kids who get to go sledding and enjoy other fun winter activities.

---by Trevor Delaney


The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or the Federal Reserve System. Any errors or omissions are the responsibility of the author.


About the Author

Bram_jasonJason Bram is a research officer in the Research and Statistics Group of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

>>>>> Scroll down to view and make comments <<<<<<

Click here for Historical News Post Listing

Make a Comment

Econintersect wants your comments, data and opinion on the articles posted. You can also comment using Facebook directly using he comment block below.

Econintersect Contributors


Print this page or create a PDF file of this page
Print Friendly and PDF

The growing use of ad blocking software is creating a shortfall in covering our fixed expenses. Please consider a donation to Econintersect to allow continuing output of quality and balanced financial and economic news and analysis.

Take a look at what is going on inside of
Main Home
Analysis Blog
Why Long-Run Theories of Profit and Accumulation Fall Short
Brexit - Who Wins and Loses
News Blog
Early Headlines: CB Bal. Sheets Still Growing, GOP Doing Too Much, May Threw Ulster Under Bus, French Election, China Vs. Pollution, Venzuela Gave To Trump Inaug., And More
NOAA and JAMSTEC Issue Seasonal Updates - Winter in Doubt
Over 200,000 People Have Been Displaced From Mosul
Heat From The Atlantic Ocean Is Melting Arctic Sea Ice Further Eastwards Than Ever Before
Number Of Americans Without Healthcare Insurance Has Dropped
What We Read Today 22 April 2017
B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber In Action
"America First" In Perspective
Emerging Market And Developing Economies Account For More Than 75 Percent Of Global Growth
Has AQAP Traded Terrorism For Protection?
U.S. Exporters Could Face High Tariffs Without NAFTA
Which Type Of Debt Drives The Business Cycle?
Robert Prechter Talks About Elliott Waves And His New Book
Investing Blog
The Week Ahead: Build That Wall!
How To Trade Earnings Announcements
Opinion Blog
What Does The Strong Q1 Growth Mean For China?
Marx, Orwell And State-Cartel Socialism
Precious Metals Blog
Three Gold Plays For The New Era Of Chaos
Live Markets
21Apr2017 Market Close: US Stocks Slipped Moderately, WTI Crude Slips On Renewed Concerns Of Increasing U.S. Production, Industrial Businesses' Cash Outflows Concern Investors
Amazon Books & More

.... and keep up with economic news using our dynamic economic newspapers with the largest international coverage on the internet
Asia / Pacific
Middle East / Africa
USA Government



Analysis Blog
News Blog
Investing Blog
Opinion Blog
Precious Metals Blog
Markets Blog
Video of the Day


Asia / Pacific
Middle East / Africa
USA Government

RSS Feeds / Social Media

Combined Econintersect Feed

Free Newsletter

Marketplace - Books & More

Economic Forecast

Content Contribution



  Top Economics Site Contributor TalkMarkets Contributor Finance Blogs Free PageRank Checker Active Search Results Google+

This Web Page by Steven Hansen ---- Copyright 2010 - 2017 Econintersect LLC - all rights reserved