Winter storm to hit U.S. East, snarling traffic, closing schools

Here comes round four.

Millions of commuters along the U.S. East Coast will face another round of heavy snow, ice and wind gusts on Wednesday when another major snow storm this month strikes the region, closing schools, grounding flights and halting buses and trains.

The nor'easter storm is on track to dump up to a foot of snow and bring gusts of up to 50 miles per hour (80 kph) to major cities such as New York, Philadelphia and Boston on Wednesday and into Thursday, the National Weather Service said.

More than 2,000 flights had already been canceled on Tuesday evening at the three major airports that serve New York. Airlines said they were waiving fees to change flights from and to the East Coast.

Not only are massive storms dangerous, they are costly, as roads require salting and plowing. Damages to infrastructure and private property can quickly add up and flight cancellations cut into airline revenues.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), since 1980, the U.S. has sustained at least 218 weather and climate disasters with overall costs exceeding $1 billion (including a Consumer Price Index adjustment to 2017).

The total cost of these 218 weather events is above $1.2 trillion, not including Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, which could be some of the most expensive storms in history.

While the economic impact of major hurricanes are still being assessed, Accuweather estimates that Hurricane Harvey could have been the costliest weather disaster in U.S. history, at $190 billion, while Hurricane Maria damages could total $100 billion. Together, the two hurricanes’ damages could amount to 1.5 of a percentage point of U.S. GDP, notes Accuweather.

When it comes to weather events, freezes have been the third most expensive weather events, since 1980, while winter storms are the fourth most expensive. Freezes have had an average cost of $3.4 billion per event since 1980, and winter storms have had an average cost of $3.1 billion per event.

Excluding the hurricanes of 2017, here are the 5 most expensive storms in U.S. history.

1.       Hurricane Katrina, August 2005: $161.3 billion

2.       Hurricane Sandy, October 2012: $70.2 billion

3.       Hurricane Andrew, August 1992: $48.1 billion

4.       U.S. Drought, 1988: $42.4 billion

5.       U.S. drought and heatwave, 2012: $32.4 billion

Reuters helped contribute to this report.