In mid-January much of the East Coast got rocked by a massive snowstorm that shut down cities from Atlanta to New York City.
For NYC, this was the second-largest snowstorm in the city’s recorded history, coming within 0.1 inches of breaking the record set in 2006.
But while this storm seemed like a phenomenon, it actually followed a pretty standard pattern according to the Liberty Street Economics blog of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York City.
Here’s NY Fed researcher Jason Bram:
The short answer is that major New York snowstorms are remarkably likely to occur on weekends. If we focus on snowstorms that dumped more than fifteen inches in Central Park, there has been a total of sixteen major storms in the past seventy-five years, spanning anywhere from one to three days. Then if we narrow that group to storms that began on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday — and call those “weekend snowstorms” — one would expect about 43 per cent (three of seven) of them to fall on a weekend. Yet it turns out that thirteen of the sixteen storms, or 81 per cent, fell on a weekend.
The odds of that happening? 0.2%!
Also known as a 500 to 1 chance.
Or! If you prefer a more qualitative take, Bram calls it “a snowball’s chance in hell!”
As any good economist would, Bram also lays out the economic impact of these big weekend storms. He wrote that while it may disrupt some activities, it generally has little long-term impact.
“Actually, there is no evidence (or theory) suggesting that major snowstorms affect the local economy for more than a couple days,” he said.
Long lines at the grocery stores before the storm illustrate that this kind of storm typically merely shifts the timing of economic activity by a few days. Still, one can certainly empathise with theatergoers who, after waiting months to see ‘Hamilton,’ didn’t get to go. The bottom line is, when you look at monthly or even weekly economic indicators, you rarely see a blip, even after the most severe blizzards.“
Bram also indicated that the weekend storms aren’t necessarily a blessing in economic terms, as construction and schools may be disrupted during the week but tourism and restaurants lose out on weekends.
Finally, Bram said it’s nearly impossible to track the cost of a snowstorm since one would have to account from not only direct spending to clean up but also quality of life impact and lost or gained spending.
Basically, don’t worry about the economic impact and just enjoy the snow.
Most likely on the weekend.
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