Nasty winter puts nation's economy in deep freeze

5:10 AM, Feb 17, 2014   |    comments
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(CBSNews.com) - It has been the winter of our discontent. Storm after storm brought car accidents, flight delays, school and business closings and budget-busting overtime for snow removal crews.

The net result: the economy still recovering from the recession has chilled. Financial analyst Jordan Goodman says bad weather cost the nation $50 billion in lost productivity.

"The retail segment has clearly been hard hit, we've had numbers down - 0.4 percent in January," Goodman said. "I think it's going to be even worse in February; people just aren't going to the stores if they're in snowstorms." 

Manufacturing dropped 0.8 percent in January -- the most in almost five years.

Municipalities across the country are struggling to cover the costs. Tony Sharan is superintendent of highways for Ramapo, N.Y.

"Right now we're probably about $70,000 over the salt budget and about $63,000 over on overtime, that's not counting this past storm," Sharan said.

Chicago budgeted $20 million this year for salting and plowing roads -- they've already spent $25 million.

Some 500 water mains burst in Detroit last month, almost twice as many as usual, forcing the bankrupt city to hire extra crews to fix them.

Elgin City in Illinois has already spent $615,076 in weather-related expenses -- three times the norm.

Propane bills in Staunton, Va., soared 32 percent over last year.

Homeowners in Waco, Texas, are seeing electric bills 50 percent higher 2013.

And crews in Delaware racked up 65,000 overtime hours clearing state roads.

This winter, airlines canceled more flights than in the past 25 years. More than 75,000 flights never took off, costing passengers an estimated $3 billion in hotels, extra meals and lost productivity.

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