For a while, rural municipalities, including Door County’s, were happy with the state of El Niño. It was warm and that meant savings in budgeted road maintenance. There was no need to pay overtime for snow removal or tons of salt and sand to spread all over the roads only to end up dried on your hardwood floors.
But the east coast got a severe snowfall last week and Door County saw several inches as well. As the snow falls, municipal money follows it. So what is the total cost of a snowstorm?
First, in terms of the obvious costs in snow removal, understand that much of this money has already been spent. The plows are already paid for and bags of salt and sand are already sitting in town shops across the county. They may cost a lot of money, but that money is gone already anyway. In the event of a particularly snowy year or consistent use, then those dollars start adding up.
The real cost in most of the United States is in economic activity, or how much work isn’t being done or things not being sold while waiting out a snowstorm; all those people on the east coast missing business meetings due to a canceled flight, closed schools forcing working parents to take the day off, and holding off on buying that new car until the roads are cleared.
Retail sales typically screech to a halt during severe weather, except in the case of apocalyptic necessities like basic groceries, gas and cold weather clothes. During a snowstorm in Massachusetts in 2015, the Retailers Association reported $10 million lost in revenue for each day of the storm.
Stock markets generally don’t see such severe volatility, mostly due to sound weather forecasting. If we know there is a big storm coming that will shut down half the country, markets will integrate that in the days before. So when things get bad, it’s not as big a deal as when an unexpected event shakes things up on Wall Street.
But Door County is a bit of an anomaly given the tourism economy. While winter may be the quiet season, there is still a tourism driver in skiing, sledding and ice fishing, if weather permits.
There is a $12.2 billion winter tourism industry in the United States. Wisconsin employs 11,077 people in winter tourism and it adds nearly $650 million to the state’s economic value (7th in the country). The state lost 36 percent of skier visits, or $102 million, during low snowfall years between 1999-2010.
So a place like Door County, which doesn’t have as much retail to lose in the winter but has a lot to gain from tourism dollars after snowfall, can look on the winter wonderland as a welcome economic driver. After the driveway is plowed and the propane tank is full, of course.
Crop prices (Jan. 26)
Rio Creek Feed Mill – Algoma
|Commodity||Price (per bushel)||Basis|
|New-Crop Wheat (SRW)||$4.27||-0.65|
Fox River Valley Ethanol – Green Bay
Basis: The difference between the local cash price for a commodity and the Chicago cash price (where the Board of Trade sets national futures price).
Gas Price Averages
United States: $1.83
United States one year ago: $2.03
Wisconsin one year ago: $1.95
Northern Door: $1.65
Sturgeon Bay: $1.75
Gold: $1,120.70/troy ounce
Silver: $14.52/troy ounce
Live Cattle: $1.33/pound
Lean Hogs: $0.70/pound
Sources: aaa.com, agweb.com, gasbuddy.com, cnn.money, Climate Impacts on Winter Tourism Report – University of New Hampshire