UK Markets open in 1 hr 47 mins

US Snowstorm Has Caused 'Billions' In Losses

(c) Sky News 2016

A massive hurricane-force blizzard which paralysed large swathes of the US East Coast over the weekend could cause many billions of dollars in losses, it has been claimed.

Aon Benfield, a reinsurance broker, believes the extreme weather could be rated as one of the 15 worst winter storms seen in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic (Shanghai: 600558.SS - news) since 1900.

The company warned: "Given the physical damage to homes, businesses and other structures and automobiles, plus the high costs incurred due to business interruption, it is expected that this will end up being a multi-billion dollar economic cost."

Although the broker stressed it was too early to determine the extent of insured losses, it pointed to a similar storm 20 years ago which, in today's terms, caused an economic loss of $4.6bn (£3.23bn) - as well as insured losses of $920m (£646m).

Despite this bleak outlook, other analysts have said the economic impact will not be too severe - mainly because the storm hit on a weekend.

Chris Christopher, a macroeconomist with IHS Global Insight, said restaurants, theatres and some retailers suffered the most as tens of millions of people hunkered down at home.

Public transport was also hit - with airlines cancelling more than 12,000 flights since Friday.

However, Mr Christopher said finances in the aviation industry were unlikely to be too squeezed, as these companies normally expect at least one bad storm a year.

He estimates the economic impact could be anywhere between $350m and $850m (£246m and £597m) as there weren't many power outages, many consumers would have just purchased groceries a little earlier than usual, and some stores would have experienced a boost as demand for gas, shovels and warm clothes soared.

"After they did their shovelling, they could be online shopping or ordering movies," Mr Christopher explained.

Winter Storm Jonas, as it has been unofficially dubbed, brought Washington DC and New York to a standstill and stranded tens of thousands of travellers.

There have been 29 weather-related deaths reported, and many of those resulted from car crashes, cases of hypothermia and attempts to shovel snow.