Winter Storm Grayson, bringing snow, ice, rain, and strong winds to the country’s eastern seaboard, is now tagged as a “bomb cyclone” - a label used when the barometric pressure of a storm drops by 24 millibars within 24 hours. This level of air pressure is said to be on par with that of a Category 1 or Category 2 hurricane. Its impact is being felt along the entire US East Coast; it first hit the southeast on Wednesday and is now headed towards New England, according to the latest reports. Temperatures are expected to continue dropping until the weekend.
With freezing temperatures hitting as low as negative 18 degrees Fahrenheit and snowfall projected to reach up to 12 inches, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia have preemptively declared states of emergency. Twelve deaths have already been reported, and schools and businesses across several states are closing, with residents being urged to stay indoors. Warnings have been issued along the coast about imminent power outages.
Supply Chain Disruptions
The inclement weather system has resulted in the closure of the Port of Virginia as well as most of the terminals in South Carolina’s Port of Charleston.
A total of about 1,500 flights scheduled for this Thursday were also cancelled. The most flight cancellations were recorded in Newark Liberty International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport and Philadelphia International Airport, among others. American and Southwest Airlines were among the first air companies to announce flight suspension. Some airlines are allowing passengers of disrupted flights to change their itineraries at no cost. To salvage business and retain customers in this inopportune time, more airline and other transport companies may want to exercise similar flexibility.
The sub-zero temperatures are also posing a threat to oil processing plants and factories. Phillips 66 decided to close down their crude and coking unit in Wood River, Illinois, due to a refinery line freezing. Cases of frozen pipes have been reported in five refineries along the East Coast but have not yet caused significant outages. Most refineries in the region are wary of the threats posed by the winter season, and have designed their facilities to withstand them. But given the extreme conditions of this bomb cyclone, it may replicate the scenario faced by the region in 2015, where refineries were abruptly shut down due to glitches.
Households and businesses have put up defenses against the cold, dialing up their thermostats and spiking demand for oil and natural gas. The latter is a staple for residential and commercial heating and is widely used by power plants as well. Because of the higher price of natural gas, some plants have switched to oil as their source of fuel for the duration of the storm.
With steady updates about the storm’s path, state and local governments along the coast are continuing to issue safety warnings to mitigate the impact of Storm Grayson. Businesses, shipping ports, and transport companies should put safety first, temporarily switch to cost-effective methods to maintain operations in the cold weather, and be as flexible as possible to protect customer and partner trust.