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As Nemo rolls through, business and workers get hit in the pocketbook

With East Coast regions expecting as much as three feet of snow shortly, courtesy of what the Weather Channel has named Winter Storm Nemo, the financial effects already have begun to ripple nationwide.  Even if you’re in one of the balmier markets nationwide, businesses in your area likely will be experiencing either a boost or a bust due to the resulting transportation snarl and other effects.

Nemo NOAA

The National Weather Service is a good resource for tracking storm forecasts. Photo: NOAA

For those bearing the storm’s brunt, you likely are checking in with airports and the industries that serve them — from the hotels and restaurants that will be accommodating stranded travelers from the thousands of flights likely to be canceled or delayed to catering companies and cleaning crews either scrambling or idled by the massive schedule change.

Will any cleaners and other ground crews lose wages because the planes they would’ve serviced won’t be arriving for an extra day or two?  What about cargo processors and handlers — how are dispatchers in your area handling the nationwide back-up?

Also in transportation, check with freight trucking companies in your region — what are their drivers in the storm-affected areas doing defensively, and how are the companies protecting their customers ahead of the storm?  As you recall, pre-holiday storms threatened the supply chain of holiday merchandise;  chances are February concerns aren’t as dire but ahead of spring, any slowdown to the shipment of cars, building materials, agricultural products and other big-ticket items could wreak havoc on transportation firms and their clients.  Check in at area truck stops and motels that cater to drivers, to see who’s battening down for a day or so and what’s in their trailers.

Organizations like the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals and APICS/The Association for Operations Management may also be leads to local expertise.   Stories that use synecdoche– basically a single example to represent a larger phenomenon — might be a way to put a new twist on the storm story.  Follow a single trucker, or flight attendant, or crate of oranges, or stranded traveler, or gas station manager or loaf of bread for the next day or so, to show readers the hour-by-hour effect of Nemo.

Weather.com storm warnings

Weather.com is taking Winter Storm Nemo seriously.

The consumer stock-up story might be trite, but you can make it interesting by describing in greater depth how various sectors prep for a big weather event.  North Fork Patch says “Shovels, ice melt, beer and chips fly off local shelves;”  since by now retailers know what sells right before a storm, it might be interesting to contact distributors of any of the above items and do a sort of tick-tock (and look-back) about how the weather forecast affects their distribution and delivery operations.

Were truckloads of ice melt diverted from, say, Pittsburgh to Boston over the past few days?  Did supermarkets order up extra bread, milk and bacon?  What’s the secondary market for necessities — are shovels and cases of cold ones popping up for sale on Craigslist?

Here’s an interesting CNBC take; it notes that with increasingly far-sighted storm forecasts, retailers might see demand shifting ahead of the blizzard, instead of losing shoppers entirely to an unexpected snow-in.  That effect, the column notes, can ameliorate though probably not wipe out the negative effects of a big storm.

I always like to ask “Who benefits?”   When the storm dies, ski resorts and other winter-sports venues likely will be grateful for the fresh powder on their slopes and tracks. See this December 2012 New York Times story about the suffering ski industry for insight and sources.

North Fork Patch says “Shovels, ice melt, beer and chips fly off local shelves;”  since by now retailers know what sells right before a storm, it might be interesting to contact distributors of any of the above items and do a sort of tick-tock (and look-back) about how the weather forecast affects their distribution and delivery operations.   Were truckloads of ice melt diverted from, say, Pittsburgh to Boston over the past few days?  Did supermarkets order up extra bread, milk and bacon?  What’s the secondary market for necessities — are shovels and cases of cold ones popping up for sale on Craigslist?

This Boston Business Journal story notes that the stock markets and funeral parlors stay open despite sleet and snow; even if you aren’t in blizzard territory, a look at disaster preparedness plans for necessary businesses like mortuaries and utilities might make for an interesting behind-the-scenes glimpse or profile.

The Twitter hashtag #NEMO is worth monitoring for additional sources and story ideas.

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

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