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Deep freeze may have cost economy about $5 billion



Published: Thu, January 9, 2014 @ 4:52 p.m.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Hunkering down at home rather than going to work, canceling thousands of flights and repairing burst pipes from the Midwest to the Southeast has its price. By one estimate, about $5 billion.

The country may be warming up from the polar vortex, but the bone-chilling cold, snow and ice that gripped much of the country — affecting about 200 million people — brought about the biggest economic disruption delivered by the weather since Superstorm Sandy in 2012, said Evan Gold, senior vice president at Planalytics, a business weather intelligence company in suburban Philadelphia.

While the impact came nowhere close to Sandy, which caused an estimated $65 billion in property damage alone, the deep freeze's impact came from its breadth.

"There's a lot of economic activity that didn't happen," Gold said. "Some of that will be made up but some of it just gets lost."

Still, Gold noted his $5 billion estimate pales in comparison with an annual gross domestic product of about $15 trillion — working out to maybe one-seventh to one-eighth of one day's production for the entire country.

"It's a small fraction of a percent, but it's still an impact," Gold said.

Major U.S. airlines, which canceled about 20,000 flights starting last Thursday, lost anywhere from $50 million to $100 million, said Helane Becker, an analyst with Cowen and Co. in New York.


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