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Winter Storms Proving To Be Bad For Business in Worcester

Monday, February 17, 2014


With mild winters becoming the new norm, this season's return to cold and snow has had more of an effect than just on shoveler's sore backs: Economists say the weather may be having an impact on businesses' bottom lines.

One estimate by business weather intelligence firm Planalytics puts the national financial impact of recent winter storms at $15 billion. Given cold temperatures and heavy snowfalls throughout the Northeast, with that precipitation extending into southern states, the weather has dampened a range of sectors from retail to auto sales.

When people need to dig out instead of go out

“As far as how attendance is impacted, it really depends on the timing and the type of storm,” says Amy Peterson, director of marketing at the DCU Center. “We’ve been fortunate in the last several years to not have to cancel or postpone many shows for weather-related reasons and I think fans generally appreciate that.”

“This time of year New Englanders have cabin fever and have driven through so much snow and other precipitous weather that they’re willing to tough it out.”

Worcester has seen a snowfall total 71.9 inches so far this season as of Sunday according to GoldenSnowGlobe.com, a national snow contest that keeps tally in cities with over 100,000 residents.

The National Weather Service reported a record-setting snowfall amount of 10.5 inches in Worcester last week, on Feb. 13, breaking a previous 9-inch record from 1897.

“On the snowy days we are impacted on attendance,” said the Worcester Art Museum's Laura Riach. The museum's manager of visitor and volunteer services said traffic lagged during poor weather when people generally had other concerns, like digging out.

Twice this month the museum has closed because of snow, including last week. “Sometimes people get here and then they can't leave,” Riach said, pointing to an instance last year when the museum had one visitor over the course of the day.

“We definitely want to be here for our visitors,” but not when it means first responders digging out museum staff in the evening.

Fortunately, the museum's largest event so far this year, Flora in Winter, happened during a clear stretch late last month. “That's the good news, people still find their way here on the big days,” Riach said. “People who do want to make it a destination make it here.”

During the last fiscal year, the art museum tallied 54,809 visitors to its galleries and a total 90,882 visitors including class, cafe, and rental attendees.

Snow removal and overtime impacting budgets

The snowfall has also buried municipal and school budgets.

At city hall, Worcester budgeted $3.85 million for snow removal this year, an increase from last year's $3.47 million appropriation (when actually expenditures approached $5 million). The city's snow spending has routinely outstripped its budget over recent years, including dramatically in 2005, 2008, and 2009.

Snow removal and paid overtime has also contributed to several line deficits in the Worcester Public Schools' spending plan. The district's recent second quarter report was projecting a $318,657 net deficit through the end of the fiscal year, ending June 30.

“There are three major impacts to facilities when we have a long winter,” said James Bedard, director of facilities management for the Worcester school system, which called off classes last Friday because of ongoing snow removal and additional forecasted amounts.

The first, Bedard said, is wear and tear on equipment. “We have over 100 snow blowers at the schools throughout the district and keeping them operational with this many storms can be a challenge.” Also, “we have a limited number of plow trucks and it is an aged fleet which also requires significant repairs and maintenance during this type of a winter.”

Frigid temperatures early last month prompted 17 delayed bus routes because of battery problems Jan. 8. That same day, a heating issue at Doherty Memorial High School made the mercury drop in some classrooms.

Eight school buildings had experienced frozen pipes the weekend before.

Bedard said there was also wear and tear on school employees who had been working long hours to keep properties clear and accessible.

Finally, “these long winters take a toll on the facilities management operational budgets.” But Bedard said his team had been doing a great job keeping schools open. “They are working day and night for the students of the WPS.”


Related Slideshow: Top 10 Blizzards in MA History

Prev Next

10.  Blizzard of 2006

Max Accumulation: Approximately 22"

February 11-13, 2006

Arriving on the evening of Feb. 13, this Nor’easter resulted in heavy snow, coastal flooding and a storm surge in Massachusetts. Wilbraham was the hardest hit area receiving more than 22 inches of snow.

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9. Blizzard of 2010

Max Accumulation: Approximately 24"

December 22-29, 2010

This historic blizzard brought as much as two feet of snow to parts of Massachusetts and caused Boston to declare a State of Emergency.

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8. Winter Storm Nemo

Max Accumulation: Approximately 25"

February 7-18, 2013

Total snowfall in Boston reached nearly 25 inches, making it the fifth-highest total ever recorded in the city.

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7. 1969 Nor’easter

Max Accumulation: Approximately 26"

February 8-10, 1969

This storm blanketed many parts of Massachusetts with upwards of 20 inches of snow, including 26.3 in Boston.

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6. Blizzard of 2003

Max Accumulation: Approximately 27.5"

February 14-19, 2013

Know as the President’s Day Storm II, this blizzard brought a record-setting 27.5 inches of snow to Boston.

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5. Blizzard of 1996

Max Accumulation: Approximately 30"

Jan. 6-10, 1996

One of two blizzards to receive an “extreme” rating on the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale, this storm blanketing parts of Western Massachusetts with upwards of 30 inches of snow.

Prev Next

4. Blizzard of 1978

Max Accumulation: Approximately 32"

February 5-7, 1978

This historic nor’easter brought a then-record 27.1 inches of snowfall to Boston and over 32 inches to Rockport. Additionally, the storm killed 73 Bay State residents.

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3. April Fool's Day Blizzard

Max Accumulation: Approximately 33"

March 30 to April 1, 1997

This blizzard was no joke, dropping a record-breaking 33 inches on Worcester.

Prev Next

2. Blizzard of 2005

Max Accumulation: Approximately 40"

January 20-23, 2005

This three-day storm delivered more than 40 inches of snow in Mashpee, Massachusetts, one of the hardest hit areas. Some portions of Massachusetts reported 6 foot snow drifts.

Prev Next

1. Great Blizzard of 1888

Max Accumulation: Approximately 50"

March 11-14, 1888

One of the most severe recorded blizzards in the history of the United States, this superstorm dumped as much as 50 inches of snow in parts of Massachusetts.


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