How is winter storm affecting holiday travel? (+video)
The storm has already dumped up to eight inches of snow in Nebraska, Iowa, and Wisconsin. Every region receiving snow this week is expected to have a white Christmas.
An intense winter storm moving across the Midwest not only is affecting holiday travel, but is also likely to factor into a retail season that falls short of earlier projections.Skip to next paragraph
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Because of the storm, ShopperTrak, a national retail analysis firm in Chicago, is lowering its holiday sales forecast. It now says that total holiday sales, encompassing November and December, will increase about 2.5 percent from the previous winter season – which is down from the 3.3 percent it projected in September.
But the storm is just one of the recent events affecting retail business, says Bill Martin, ShopperTrak’s founder. Other events that have put a damper on shopping are superstorm Sandy, the national discussion surrounding the “fiscal cliff,” and the mass shooting last week in Newtown, Conn.
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The combined effect: Shoppers are likely to have weightier issues on their minds going into the final stretch before Christmas than spending money.
“Sandy took a small slice of the economic pie and disrupted it,” Mr. Martin says. “The fiscal cliff situation and the tragedy in Connecticut both put a different tone on the holiday. People are saying, ‘I want to give my kid a hug for Christmas instead of a toy.’ ”
How much of an impact the current storm will have will depend on the “breadth and depth of the snow” falling through the weekend, he says.
The storm dumped up to eight inches of snow in Nebraska, Iowa, and Wisconsin. That made it not just the first winter storm of the season, but also the “first significant weather system over the last year and a half,” because of last year’s mild winter conditions, says Jim Keeney, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service (NWS).
The wind gusts and snowdrifts are resulting in multistate road closures, school closings, canceled flights, and power outages. These include:
• Airlines at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago have canceled more than 200 flights, and delays are running between 30 to 90 minutes, the Chicago Department of Aviation reports. At Midway International Airport on Chicago’s South Side, Southwest Airlines said it would cancel all flights after 4:30 p.m., central time.