Last week businesses and communities throughout the United States experienced the fifth in a series of major winter storms since the beginning of 2014. Four separate stretches of winter weather affected the United States in January, bringing heavy snowfall, sleet, freezing rain, ice, gusty winds, and bitterly cold Artic air to the Southeast, Northeast, Midwest, and Ohio Valley. The January winter storms took more than 50 lives, and preliminary forecasts predict direct economic losses of approximately $3.5 billion and insured losses of more than $1.6 billion. The most recent February storm brought “catastrophic” snow and ice of “historical proportions” to the Southeast and heavy snowfall to cities in the Northeast along the Interstate 95 corridor, from Virginia to Maine. More than 600,000 businesses and homes across the country lost power, and more than 15,000 flights were canceled last week alone. Governors in Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Virginia, and Maryland declared states of emergency, and the federal government also declared a state of emergency in Georgia.
The current winter weather season has already become the costliest year for winter weather peril in the United States since 2011. U.S. airlines have canceled more than 75,000 domestic flights since December 1, 2013 (the most in more than 25 years), hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses have lost power, and the winter storms have resulted in widespread property damage including collapsed buildings, frozen pipes bursting, downed tree limbs and power lines, and hundreds of traffic accidents. Companies also have sustained business interruption losses due to severe travel and transportation delays and business closings. These losses have aggregated into direct economic losses in the billions of dollars.
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