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Tracking the economic impact of severe weather

tornado

By Flickr user Mark Turner

The tornado alerts have waned for the time being after last weekend’s deadly storms. But given the track record so far this year, and severe spring weather outlooks from AccuWeather and other forecasters, it’s probably a good idea to determine how you’ll cover any outbreaks from a financial point of view.

Storms, flooding, high winds, hurricanes and tornadoes wreak temporary havoc and long-term financial costs for victims – and like most disasters, also provide opportunities for those who mitigate or mop up.  Here are a few ideas and resources you can tuck away so you’re prepared when nature unleashes its next round of trouble.

Damage control.  Obviously clean-up and reconstruction are costly and labor-intensive endeavors after a storm hits.  Some volunteer help is generally available, but you might want to line up contacts at waste-hauling firms, remediation outfits like ServePro (which is a franchise operation, so it’s a good small business angle) and suppliers of patch-up materials like glass and plywood.

Also, the wake of a storm is a good opportunity to do an employment story; you can check into day-labor practices in your area – what happens when contractors quickly need a clean-up crew?  Some temporary staffing firms like LaborFinders specialize in unskilled labor and construction workers; you can also check with unions about demand for skilled trades.  I’ve seen websites and articles about itinerant contractors who follow storms and make a living doing roof repairs and reconstruction. (By that I mean legitimate contractors, not the driveway-repair people and others who perpetrate home-repair scams, but a “how to avoid fraud” story might be apropos before the next big storm. This story from MSN has some good examples.)

Preparedness.   If you cover workplace or real estate, you might want to check in with state regulators, landlords, facilities-management pros and others about workplace safety in tornado season.  What are companies required to do and who checks up on, say, the capacity of a shelter area in the average office building or mall?  Are facilities inspected or graded on their storm preparedness?  If not, what’s in store for people trapped their during bad weather?

Also, check in with health systems – of all places, they must be ready not only to treat casualties but to move their existing patients to safety.  A profile of preparedness plans, drills and the people in charge of them at area medical centers could be an interesting take.

Who loses, who gains?  Many companies whose business could be disrupted, from airlines to agribusiness to trucking and cargo firms.  Do they have in-house meteorologists, or employ a private weather service?  Here’s a list of such firms from the National Weather Service – it’s searchable by state; you might contact the ones in your region and find out what concerns and requests they are hearing from clients.  Does the uptick in bad weather help their business?

Here’s a story from last spring about storm-shelter sales spiking in Arizona after a spate of tornadoes.  You might talk with contractors, wholesalers and retailers about any precautionary or safety items that are in demand in your region, from weather radios to plywood.

About the Author

Veteran financial writer Melissa Preddy served as a business writer, editor and columnist for The Detroit News from 1995 to 2008, is a Michigan-based freelance journalist. She now works as a writer and editor for a medical research unit of the University of Michigan Medical School. Follow her daily posts. | E-mail: Melissa Preddy

Comments (1)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    It is true that weather can be so unpredictable. It can take away the things we love most and cherish. That is why we have to protect the things we love and build them back stronger and better than they were before.

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