Mild Weather Warming Local Budgets | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Mild Weather Warming Local Budgets

Play associated audio

In January of last year, snow blanketed more than 42 percent of the country. Last month, it was just under 13 percent. The warm weather has lowered our heating bills and created a bit of an economic boost.

After two brutally long winters, the temperatures this year have been positively balmy. In the Washington, D.C., area, they've hovered in the 50s for much of the past two and a half months. Area landscapers, whose schedules are usually pretty lean this time of year, are busier. Take Chuck Dod Landscaping, which is building a stone wall in the backyard of a home in McLean, Va.

"Most winters, we just plan for downsizing a bit," owner Chuck Dod says. "Normally, we're down to about 40 or 50 percent capacity. This year, we're running 75-80 percent of capacity."

Thanks to the milder temperatures, Dod says, his office has been fielding more calls.

"I think people are getting out more," he says. "If it was colder, [they] probably wouldn't be walking the neighborhood as much. Normally takes place a month or two later."

Warmer weather also helped bulk up the country's employment rolls in December and January. Construction workers are finding jobs when hiring is normally weak. Andrew Mawhorter is hauling chunks of stone to build the stone wall; he's happy to be on the payroll.

"The ground isn't frozen, so that's always good," he says.

And milder winter weather boosts economic growth in other ways.

"People are out; they're eating out," says Scott Bernhardt, president of Planalytics, which studies the weather's impact on business. "They're going to call restaurants, strip malls, all sorts of places like that — and spending money when they do so."

Bernhardt says many cities are usually busy cleaning up after winter storms. This year, local governments are saving tens of thousands of dollars because the snowplows and salt trucks are in dry dock.

In Chicago, where a single fierce blizzard blew through the snow budget last February, this month has barely put a dent in the city's $20 million snow removal budget — so far, anyway. In Maryland, more than half of the state's 200 or so road construction projects are usually put on hold in the winter. This year, many projects are going forward that would otherwise be shut down

"For example, we have a bridge project," offers Melinda Peters, the head of the Maryland State Highway Administration. "We were able to pour the bridge deck last week. Typically, that's not a winter activity because of temperature constraints."

But the milder weather hasn't been a shot in the arm for everyone. Many retailers are struggling to unload winter merchandise like snow shovels, hats and scarves. Planalytics' Bernhardt says weather becomes important in a dicey economy because people stick to buying necessities.

If people don't need scarves or hats, they don't buy them, he says, and this winter weather is saying don't buy them.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

WAMU 88.5

Audiences Get A Modern Look At A 19th Century Opera

Opera as seen through the lens of Google Glass? Wolf Trap is giving audiences the chance to mix technology with Bizet’s classic "Carmen" this month.
NPR

Can You Trust That Organic Label On Imported Food?

A new book claims the organic label can't be trusted, especially on food that's imported. Yet there is a global system for verifying the authenticity of organic food, and it mostly seems to work.
NPR

Democrats Make New Bid To Require Donor Transparency

The latest version of the DISCLOSE Act, which would force donor disclosure on outside organizations that engage in election politics, is facing now-familiar opposition from Republican lawmakers.
NPR

A Plan To Untangle Our Digital Lives After We're Gone

In the digital age, our online accounts don't die with us. A proposed law might determine what does happen to them. But the tech industry warns the measure could threaten the privacy of the deceased.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.