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Will “Nemo” Bring Down The Northeast Again?

I live in New England.

It is February, the heart of Winter.

It is Snowing.

Hello?

The New York-centric broadcast networks and financial news channels such as CNBC and Bloomberg are acting as if the world is coming to an end today, with this story revisited every half hour: the â??Storm of the Centuryâ? coming our way in the shape of the winter storm/blizzard named â??Nemoâ? by the Weather Channel .

Now there is an entire story embedded right there, as the Weather Channel and its website, weather.com, last Fall decided to give names to Winter storms in the same fashion as hurricanes. They selected a palate of names with fictional, historical and classical roots, including names such as: Athena, Draco, Brutus, Caesar, Helen, Iago, Pluto, Virgil and Zeus and now Nemo.

The reason it is a storyline is that the official National Weather Service has pointedly said it does not endorse such a naming effort and says on their website:

The National Weather Service has no opinion about private weather enterprise products and services. A winter storm’s impact can vary from one location to another, and storms can weaken and redevelop, making it difficult to define where one ends and another begins. While the National Weather Service does not name winter storms, we do rate major winter storms after the fact.

The Weather Channel begs to differ and in this era of social media makes some reasonable points on why they think the naming effort is worthwhile.

On their site, weather.com, they list the following reasons:

  • Naming a storm raises awareness.
  • Attaching a name makes it much faster and easier to follow a weather systemâ??s progress.
  • A storm with a name takes on a personality all its own, which adds to awareness.
  • In todayâ??s social media world, a name makes it much easier to reference in communication.
  • A named storm is easier to remember and refer to in the future.

Putting the naming issue aside, we donâ??t really wish to make light of this storm and its potential damage, especially in the heart of New England:

According to the providencejournal.com (Rhode Island):

The National Weather Service at Taunton, Mass., has issued a Blizzard Watch for a “potential historic storm” that is expected to drop one to two feet of snow across much of the region from Friday into Saturday. The Blizzard Watch is in effect until Saturday afternoon.

Much of Eastern Massachusetts, and Northern and Central Rhode Island, including Foster, Smithfield, Providence, West Greenwich are expected to see snowfall rates up to two to three inches per hour.

The heaviest snow is expected from Friday evening to Saturday morning. Travel might become impossible in blowing and drifting snow on northeast winds up 35 mph, with gusts to 55 mph. Visibility is expected to drop to 1/4 mile or less at times, with possible whiteout conditions.

Having just lived through Hurricane Sandy and then Nor-Easter Athena, we residents of New England are less concerned with the snowfall per se than flooding, tree damage, loss of power, and the generally dangerous conditions both on the roads and for those who might be stuck without power and heat for an extended period.

From a stock market/economic perspective, we would expect lower trading volumes this afternoon as many on Wall Street will be heading home and this can lead to two outcomes: a very quiet afternoon or just the opposite, indices which a few major players and program trading can push around more easily.

The storm will have a short-term impact on some areas of the economy: hits to certain retailers, weekend auto sales, airlines and other transport-related businesses, and commerce in general. On the flip-side, home supply big box stores like Home Depot and Loweâ??s might benefit, grocery stores are jammed right now, and certainly battery-makers will have another bonanza here in the Northeast.

The real fear is if this storm takes on a truly destructive bent, with widespread power outages lasting anywhere from 2-5 days, which will likely have some measurable impact on GDP, consumer spending, lost productivity, and employment figures. And there is always the wildcard of impact on energy prices.

Letâ??s all hope the damage stays minimal, that New England ski resorts do a booming business, and the rest of us can carry on safely with our daily lives in short order.

Good Trading!
David Wismer

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About the Author

David Wismer covers market news and provides editorial content for Forbes and Stateofthemarkets.com. His professional career has taken him to Madison Avenue, Wall Street, Silicon Alley, Hollywood, Washington, and all across the NYC sports and media scene. David specializes in digging into what is being said by newsmakers, the media, and the “hot news,” and aims to connect the dots to help investors make sense of the markets.