Weather and Natural Disasters

Storm forecast for business: No big deal

Retailers weathering the storm
Retailers weathering the storm
No biz like snow biz
No biz like snow biz
Airlines got ahead of storm: FlightAware CEO
Airlines got ahead of storm: FlightAware CEO

Forecasts for devastating storms fizzled out Tuesday, as snowfall failed to accumulate at record levels as predicted in many areas.

The economic impact will be similarly muted for businesses in the affected area, Planalytics' Evan Gold told CNBC on Tuesday.

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"We think the economic impact of the storm is going to be relatively small, said Gold, senior vice president of the weather advisory firm.

"We're estimating at about $500 million, and that's simply based on the duration of the storm, the timing of the storm, and the population centers that are impacted," he said in a "Squawk Box" interview.

That compares with a $15 billion to $50 billion impact due to a polar vortex and significant snowfall early in 2014, he said.

The losers include restaurants and other food service companies that depend on workers coming in for lunch, Gold said. Meanwhile, food delivery services and on-demand entertainment companies may get a boost as workers and families ride out school and office closures.

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Retailers could also see some upside, since the storm arrived during one of the weakest shopping periods of the year, he said. Storm preparation buying gives retailers the opportunity to clear out winter inventory.

As for delivery and logistics companies like FedEx and UPS, Gold said this is not the first storm they have weathered. "They are as much about the preparation as anything else. Everything I've heard is they are operating as close to normal as possible today."

FedEx and UPS trucks may even have an easier time navigating the streets because so many schools and businesses are closed, he added.

Home improvement retailers such as Home Depot and Lowe's are unlikely to see much of an impact on sales, Budd Bugatch, managing director at Raymond James, told "Squawk Box."

"Overall, I don't get very excited at these kind of events for these retailers," he said.

Bugatch assesses a storm's impact on retailers in three phases.

In this case, the preparation phase was relatively short since forecasts came in over the weekend, he said. The storm itself creates a drag on retailers as stores shut down—about 400 for Home Depot and 300 for Lowe's in the affected areas, he added. "That might actually turn out in the final analysis to be the biggest impact here."

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The aftermath is where retailers tend to get a boost. Home Depot saw about $500 million in improved sales in the four quarters after Hurricane Sandy, he said. This week's storm is unlikely to have a significant impact.

In the airline space, FlightAware reported that more than 7,000 flights scheduled for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were canceled.

The cancellations have largely been limited to the Northeast because air carrier got ahead of the storm and flew their planes and crews out of the area, Daniel Baker, Flightaware CEO, told "Squawk Box." Consequently, few flights in other parts of the country were impacted due to grounded planes.

However, more cancellations could be coming early on Wednesday morning because airlines need to get planes back into the Northeast before they can begin service out of the Northeast, he said.

"If you're flying into the Northeast tomorrow morning, you've got a good shot. The airlines want to get back in business. If you've got an early morning flight out of the Northeast tomorrow morning, it's pretty dicey," Gold said.

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The National Weather Service had warned of "crippling snowfall amounts" and potentially "life-threatening" blizzard conditions. Its New York office reported snow of between 6 and 10 inches early Tuesday. Eastern Long Island north through Massachusetts and Maine were now expected to fare the worst, with 1 to 3 feet of snow.

CNBC's Katrina Bishop and The Associated Press contributed to this story.