The record freeze that blanketed the eastern half of the US this week cancelled or delayed thousands of flights, halted road and rail travel, and drove energy prices higher, Reuters reports.
At least nine people have died from frigid temperatures, expected to be 25 degrees to 35 degrees Fahrenheit below normal from the Midwest to the Southeast.
PJM Interconnection, the agency that oversees the electric grid supplying the mid-Atlantic and parts of the Midwest, told Reuters the cold forced some power plants to shut and said electricity suppliers were struggling to keep up with the demand. PJM Interconnection’s members include units of American Electric Power, FirstEnergy, Exelon and Public Service Electric & Gas.
Oil refiners including Marathon Petroleum and Exxon Mobil saw cold-related outages as well.
The below-freezing temperatures and snow could cost the US economy up to $5 billion including lost productivity and retail sales, Evan Gold, senior vice president at Planalytics, tells Reuters.
The arctic air cancelled 2,380 US flights and delayed 2,912 others, according to FlightAware.com, and snow and ice stopped three Chicago-bound Amtrak trains overnight on Monday, stranding some 500 passengers in northwestern Illinois.
Economic losses from extreme weather events have risen from an annual global average of about $50 billion in the 1980s to close to $200 billion over the last decade, according to the report released in November by the World Bank.
A study to calculate the economic risk US industries face from climate change is being funded by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, billionaire Tom Steyer and George W. Bush-era Treasury secretary Henry Paulson.
Photo Credit: cars in a snowstorm via Shutterstock