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Doing the numbers on the Northeast’s snowstorm

By: Tony Wagner and Marketplace staff, Marketplace

As New England digs itself out from two and a half feet of snow, New Yorkers are taking stock of the Snowpocalypse that wasn’t.

But the forecasts, the hype and the precautions have real economic cost, says Scott Bernhardt, president of the weather economics analysis firm Planalytics.

“The economic impact of today is going to happen whether it was eight inches or 18 inches in Central Park.,” Bernhardt says.

Widespread travel bans, school closures, flight cancellations, extra city workers and the like all come with serious cost. Locally, hardware, grocery and convenience stores enjoyed a spike in sales while sit-down restaurants lose revenue they can’t make up. Meanwhile, some states are still getting hammered.

“Tomorrow it’ll be like it never happened in Philadelphia, probably New York as well,” Bernhardt says. “When you get into Boston? Not so much. Hartford? Not so much.”

The total economic cost remains to be seen. Let’s do the numbers on the storm so far: 30 inches

The peak snowfall in Massachusetts, CNN reported, with drifts reaching up to six feet. As of Tuesday afternoon, parts of Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Massachusetts were under blizzard and winter storm warnings. New York City got off easy in comparison, with a paltry 7.9 inches falling in Central Park.

26.9 inches

New York City’s record snowfall, recorded in February 2006 in Central Park. At that time, the city deployed 2,500 workers to help with cleanup, flights were grounded and trains were delayed, but the subway didn’t shut down as it did Monday night.

4,727

That’s how many domestic and international flights were cancelled Tuesday in anticipation of a historic nor’easter, with another 2,290 delayed. On Monday airlines cancelled 2,866 flights.

$160 million

The cost of lost labor if 10 percent of New York City’s workforce stays home, The New York Times’ Upshot reported. That might be a conservative estimate, since the majority of workers take the subway, which shut down for the first time in more than a century. Or it could be overstated, since so many people are wired to work from home.

$500 million

The estimated cost of the storm, a senior VP for Planalytics told CNBC Tuesday morning. That’s far from the GDP-shrinking impact some analysts talked about Monday. In the case of New York City, one economist told Bloomberg any lost output should be made up by the end of the week.

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