I was scheduled to be in Washington DC delivering a keynote speech at the annual Diversity Women Leadership conference in Washington DC today. But that conference, along with so many other important events, got postponed due to Hurricane Sandy. My flight was cancelled along with 11,000 other flights across the US. New York’s 3 airports make up the nation’s busiest air travel market, so you can just imagine the upheaval rippled effect throughout the US with all carriers halting services to NY, Washington and Philadelphia.
The airlines have been great about issuing vouchers. Most if not all conferences will be re-scheduled. Some businesses even experience short term benefits by an upteak in sales and/or interests in stocks. I remember my CMO days at Church’s Chicken after hurricane Katrina. While Louisiana markets were devastated, many other markets benefited by influx of people seeking shelter and temporary migrations and consumptions. I can only imagine what executives at Home Depot or Loews must be feeling—celebration of incremental sales amidst of this natural disaster. Yet, those businesses which loose a day or so, will never get those dollars back. For United Airlines, for example, 3,700 cancellation through Oct. 31 is 16% of total for the period. Think of all those areas with large inventories of foreclosed oceanfront homes that lenders have let fall into despair hoping to collect on insurance claims now.
Financial gain for some is typically a financial loss for others. That is a fact for any free market. But what makes Sandy unique is that she is expected to slam into the US East Coast tonight, and she hobbles New York, US stocks and options, Wall Street and world’s financial capital. Mass transit shut down, closed schools and businesses, and evacuation of 375,000 people in coastal areas affect many banks and financial institutions such as Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and others. I’m sure we will hear a lot more about the financial impact in the days to come.
Of course, some say that today’s financial system is to the real economy a little like what hurricane Sandy is to the East coast. That’s not to minimize the potential devastation of any big, powerful storm and its slow moving progress with food, water, emergency shelter, trees down, getting powers back on, etc. But I think what’s most unique about Sandy is that she is the mother of all surprises before an election week. We may see a reduction in the number of polls issued over the coming days. Some analysts are concerned that the storm could depress voter turnout along the Eastern Seaboard. No doubt, that Sandy will also affect the home stretch political campaigns and the news coverage about them. Although the effected states are Democratic-leaning, I appreciated hearing President Obama say today, “election will take care of itself, we need to be concerned for the safety and well-being of the affected families.”
Yes, the election will take care of itself. So will the conferences. So will the Financial capital of the world. Let’s all keep the families in harm’s way in our thoughts and prayers until this storm passes, too.