On March 14th, the Northeast U.S. was hit by a late winter storm, Stella, that brought sleet and snow to much of the region. Meteorologists predicted that cities like Philadelphia, New York, and Boston would receive one to two feet of snow prompting officials in cities from Washington DC to Boston to close schools. However, despite these predictions, major cities were relatively unfazed by the storm. Stella ended up tracking closer to the coast, bringing warmer air. Instead of snow, much of the precipitation fell in in the form of sleet and frozen rain. Central Park received just seven inches of snow while Boston received just over six inches. When asked if he regretted closing schools, Mayor De Blasio said “This is the lesson we keep learning…The National Weather Service does everything they know how to do, but Mother Nature makes her own decisions.

Boston during the 2015 snowstorms (Wikimedia commons/ Jan Mark Holzer)

Despite the low snowfall totals in metropolitan areas, Stella had significant impacts elsewhere. Parts of the Northeast’s interior received over two feet of snow and up to 200,000 homes were left without power. Additionally, over 6,000 flights were canceled. Although Stella did not meet expectations, it was still severe enough to disrupt the economy. Oxford Economics predicted that Stella would cause “a partial commercial shutdown of the region with permanent losses in some business activity” totaling up to $2.4 billion. This equates to a .2 percent loss in the already low GDP forecast of 1.1 percent. In 2015, Massachusetts faced $1 billion in permanent economic losses which is equivalent to about one percent of the region’s annual input. During commercial shut downs, such as the one experienced this week, the hardest hit industries and individuals are those that cannot recover losses once reopening. In regards to the 2015 snowstorms, Michael Goodman of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth noted, “You’re not going to sell two lunches tomorrow to offset the lunch that you didn’t sell today.”

Sources and Further Reading:

  1. Top Snow Total from Winter Storm Stella Hits 42 Inches in New York State – The Weather Channel
  2. Heavy Snowfall is Forecast Across Northeastern U.S. – New York Times
  3. Stella Wasn’t a Dud, You City-Centric Weather Observers! – The Slatest
  4. Blizzard of ’17? What Went Wrong – Philly.com
  5. Latest Snow totals: How Much Snow Fell in Your Community? – WCVB5
  6. Northeast Snowstorm: Here’s What Happened – New York Times
  7. Snowstorm Severe Enough to Dent GDP, Economist Warns – The Wall Street Journal
  8. Boston Economy Will Escape Big Freeze of Historic Snowstorms – NPR