Many lose, some gain from harsh winter

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Hazard, Ky. (WYMT)-- This winter's harsh weather caused a net loss for the economy, but a few local businesses and industries Saw a few small gains from the winter weather events.

"It was a get in your igloo and sort of stay there as far as the consumers were concerned," said economist Richard Crowe.

The fact that people did not come out of those igloos cut into Treehouse Café and Bakery's owner Jennifer Noble's business.

She sets a quota for each day she opens.

"I think there were probably six or seven days that we were closed, and the days we did make it in, and I was paying employees to be here," Noble said. "There were no customers, so we didn't reach the quota those days either."

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet's workers plowed the way for many of the people who did leave their homes, but it came at a cost in both materials and personnel, though many on road crews took home more in overtime pay than in a usual winter.

The agency used about 438,000 tons of salt this winter, according to H.B. Elkins, Public Information Officer for District 10.

That number is double last year, Elkins said.

Costs to remove snow added up to more than $62 million, according to data Elkins provided to WYMT.

The increased snow removal costs along with the additional freeze and thaw cycles the weather subjected the roads to could also affect road maintenance, Elkins said.

"It might be possible that we aren't able to resurface as many roads. We may have to do spot patching in places," said Elkins, noting those decisions still have to be finalized at the state level.

Amos Walker, owner of Walker's Body and Frame Shop in Perry County saw some increase in business from some of the crashes the winter weather caused.

"The morning we had black ice, and, you know, nobody knew it was out, and we got about four to five cars the very next day," Walker said.

Though it added to the workload, he was glad to do the business.

"It kind of stresses you because you're behind, but you know it's good for the end of the week when you're making paydays and all that," Walker said.

The harsh winter could also make coal look more attractive as an energy source, said Crowe, due to the additional quantity of electricity consumers demanded during the cold winter.

Coal companies sold some of their reserves, leading to an increase in overall sales, Crowe said.

Coal also makes a good backup if newer energy delivery methods are taxed too heavily by an increase in the amount of energy people demand.

"I'm hopeful that it opens a few eyes, and that there's a place for coal at the table in terms of supplying energy going forward," Crowe said.


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