The Cost of a Snowy Winter

Author: Angela Stewart, Marketing Intern

We have had one strange and long winter this year in the D.C. region. Despite many uncharacteristically warm days, we’ve also had one of the snowiest winters Washington D.C. has seen in a long time.

Winter storm Wiley gave the East Coast more snow this St. Patty’s day.  It is the third largest late March snowstorm the District has ever seen. Washington, D.C. reported accumulating 7 inches, but out in the suburbs reports were higher.  Dulles Airport and Montgomery County both reported 11 inches of snow.

Silver Spring Snow

After this last snowstorm, Washington, D.C.’s seasonal snowfall total for the 2013-2014 winter season is 30 inches. That is twice as much as D.C’s 30-year average and the fourth largest seasonal snowfall total in 25 years.

The snow has placed unexpected costs on residents.  Most schools in the area are now scheduling make-up days in the summer, the federal government has been closed for a full week, and it has put a financial strain on local governments. Both Maryland and Virginia have spent more than their snow removal budget this year. The Virginia Department of Transportation spent $100 million more than its original $157 million snow removal budget for November 2013 to March 2014. Similarly, only $46 million was budgeted for snow removal by Maryland’s State Highway Administration, but it spent $123 million. The problem wasn’t that these states under-budgeted; snow removal cost significantly more this year than past years.  In the last five years Maryland spent an average of $70 million annually to remove snow.

Roads weren’t the only areas of the transportation that faced a heavy economic burden because of the snow.  The airlines have been severely affected as well.  Around 400 flights were cancelled at Dulles, Reagan National, and BWI early Monday morning after the most recent snowfall. During March’s first snowstorm, over 2,000 flights were canceled in the region’s major airports. Winter storms have cost the airline industry and customers and estimated $6 billion.

The economic pains of the weather have affected the broader economy.  The Economist estimated in February that losses from the winter weather could be as large as a $50 billion.

But the news isn’t all bad. Many industries that have struggled during more mild winters are thriving.  Snow plowman, tow trucks drivers, and taxis have been especially busy.  Hotels gained extra customers when flights were canceled or delayed. Not to mention, the snow has been great for winter sports! This year the snow sports industries

Snow on leaves

increased its revenue by $178 million year over year.

As much as we’ve enjoyed our extra time on the slopes this year, we’re hoping this is the last snowstorm of the year. Spring is just a few days away. We’re ready for some warmer weather and an end to shoveling snow!