Winter Storm Losses Top $3 Billion and Counting
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) As the largest storm of the season lumbers out of the Deep South and paralyzes the Northeast, the economic toll of this icy winter deepens. Impact Forecasting says that with no fewer than four distinct winter storms seizing the country in January, total direct economic losses were estimated at $3 billion, with insured losses topping $1.4 billion. February's continued winter assault will significantly add to the total.
The current winter blast has plunged Georgia into the dark and cold with nearly 230,000 homes and businesses without power, making it the worst-hit state so far. More than a half million people in the Southeast are without electricity. Meanwhile, the same storm is expected to dump more than a foot of snow on New York City today. Washington, D.C. is already snowed-in, as the federal government, local schools and airports have been shut down.
Prior to this week's major winter storm, the most significant and costliest winter assault occurred during the second week of January, where at least 21 people were killed. More than 20 inches of snow fell in the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley, while freezing rain coated the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.
The coldest temperatures in two decades then descended into the central and eastern U.S., with at least 20 states recording wind chill values of minus 30 degrees. Widespread property damage and severe travel delays occurred as a result of the cold and snow. Three other storm events in January combined to kill at least 33 people and caused more than $500 million in economic damages, with insured losses approaching $200 million, according to Impact Forecasting. Businesses have suffered significant declines in profits due to closings and transportation interruptions.
"The current winter season in the United States has already become the costliest year for the winter weather peril since 2011," says Steve Bowen, meteorologist with Impact Forecasting. "With higher-than-average snow totals, ice, and some of the coldest temperatures in nearly two decades affecting much of the country during January, the combination of physical damages and business interruption costs have quickly aggregated into direct economic losses well into the billions of dollars."
Severe weather is also impacting the global economy as torrential rains caused widespread flood damage and dozens of fatalities in parts of Asia and South America in January. China's Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA) reported that nearly $170 million in economic damages had occurred to agricultural land and crops due to snow and freezing temperatures. In Thailand, at least 63 people died after the coldest air in 30 years gripped the country. An additional 25 cold-related fatalities occurred in India.
Last month, torrential rainfall spawned widespread flooding and landslides across the southern Philippines with at least 79 people killed or missing. In Indonesia, seasonal rains caused severe flooding and landslides throughout the archipelago, taking 71 lives.