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Historic weather pattern wreaks havoc across the country


The last few weeks featured historic, record-breaking, and hugely impactful weather across nearly all of the country. AccuWeather meteorologists say they haven’t seen a pattern like this in decades, if ever.

Key Highlights

Coast to coast impacts: Extended power outages affected millions from Oregon to Texas to the Carolinas

Supply chain logistics Retail store shelves were cleared of basic life-necessities, as well as items to help mitigate the impact of the storm

COVID Progress: The storm delayed distribution of vaccine doses, disrupted testing and reporting operations

Ice, snow, extreme cold, and even severe weather created significant challenges in numerous industries, from energy/utilities to transportation logistics to farming. Much of the country, from the Southern Plains to New England, was still in the process of responding to one round of winter weather when a new storm brought the next round of snow and freezing rain, complicating recovery efforts. 

The core of extremely cold Arctic air was in place over the Plains for an incredible 10-day stretch. Temperatures averaged 15 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit below average across the Plains and western half of the Mississippi Valley. This was the coldest air mass to affect the southern Plains since December of 1989.

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Two back-to-back storms spread swaths of heavy snow and freezing rain from the Southern Plains into the Northeast. This resulted in numerous multi-vehicle accidents, delays in shipments – including the delivery of 6 million COVID-19 vaccines – and extended power outages due to ice buildup on power lines and trees. 

The combination of extreme cold, duration of temperatures below freezing, and lack of planning for extreme cold of this magnitude led to widespread rolling blackouts for much of Texas. Parts of Oklahoma and Arkansas also experienced rolling blackouts as high usage overwhelmed the power grid. Many locations also dealt with frozen pipes that led to pipe bursts, flooding and unsafe water consumption before boiling. 

Snow in the Pacific Northwest rendered many routes impassable while Portland, Oregon and surrounding areas were without power for days after a crippling ice storm.

Screen Shot 2021-02-12 at 12.00.12 PMAccuWeather's power outage risk is shown here in the dark shade with asterisks. Underlaid is the forecast for accumulating snow.

Takeaways for Businesses

Local impacts have far-reaching consequences. A store in Florida could experience delays from their manufacturer based in Massachusetts due to a Northeast blizzard. The store in Florida should account for this supply chain obstacle and prepare for potential shortages or delays in product delivery.  

Weather also affects consumer purchasing habits. For example, grocery stores are likely to see an increase in business before a storm as consumers rush to stockpile supplies, while retailers may find consumers visiting their digital site in lieu of brick-and-mortar stores as traveling conditions become hazardous. However, without advanced planning and superior insights about the weather, executives could find themselves hard-pressed to meet these sudden changes in consumer behavior. 

Business continuity plans should account for extended power and internet outages. While the duration of temperatures below freezing was largely unprecedented, the potential for days-long outages, especially in persistent weather patterns like this one, is present across much of the country. With many organizations still operating in a virtual environment, functional internet is critical. Knowing about potential outages ahead of time allows businesses to make adjustments to processes, ensuring minimal disruption. 

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Be Prepared with the Most Up-To-Date Information

As weather-related disasters increase in frequency and severity, the proper weather risk mitigation partner can help businesses better prepare. AccuWeather For Business can equip executives and their teams with the intelligence and situational awareness to confidently make informed decisions in any storm scenario. AccuWeather meteorologists monitor client assets 24/7/365 and can to speak directly with stakeholders when severe weather threatens their business. Our SkyGuard service provides users with on-demand access to mobile and web-based platforms that can be accessed by key personnel throughout your organization, providing a company-wide common operating picture and critical situational awareness. 

Inclement weather can have devastating effects on both local and global communities. Consistent, reliable forecasts and warnings allow decision-makers to prepare ahead of any potential weather-related event, any time of year. With AccuWeather For Business, the weather will be one less worry keeping decision-makers up at night. 


Partner with us to weather the storm. Demo SkyGuard today.