In late October, a rare snowstorm hit the Northeast, piling heavy, wet snow on leaf-filled trees. Within hours on that Saturday afternoon, power lines went down and homes and businesses went dark, with some areas seeing an accumulation of 20 inches by nightfall.
Nearly 3 million homes and businesses along the East coast — in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts — were affected. In New Jersey, more than 600,000 outages were reported. In Connecticut, the hardest-hit state, 850,000 homes and businesses were without power, and some stayed that way for more than a week.
In his 20 years as owner of Northeast Express Transportation, Kevin Maloney had never experienced such devastation. His company, based in Windsor Locks, Conn., distributes car parts and farm equipment to more than 100 companies. Without electricity for five days, the company tried to shift to plan B: working from home. But most employees had no power, either. Trucks unloading goods at the company’s headquarters resorted to using headlights to cast light.
Maloney’s business was not the only one caught off guard by the storm. Without generators or contingency plans, many businesses were scrambling. Even companies that had the foresight to own generators hadn’t planned for such a long outage, and did not have a large enough gas supply, says Andy Markowski, Connecticut director for the National Federation of Independent Business.
“Some mom and pop businesses were closed a week or more,” he says. “And some of them were on the ropes financially even before the storm due to the recession .”
In the storm’s aftermath, many businesses are compiling their own after-storm reports, says Markowski, noting what went wrong and what can be done to prepare for future storms.