Snowstorms make news, especially when they close roads, endanger motorists and adversely impact commerce. Media outlets play a vital role in disseminating practical information and keeping public institutions accountable.
Some stories are obvious, others aren’t. Here are a few you might want to consider:
The economic cost of snowstorms. With data from a study commissioned by the Highway Users Alliance, you can quantify the potential cost of impassable roads in the following states and provinces:
Illinois, $400 million lost per day
Indiana, $157 million lost per day
Iowa, $70 million lost per day
Kentucky, $96 million lost per day
Maryland, $184 million lost per day
Massachusetts, $265 million lost per day
Michigan, $251 million lost per day
Minnesota, $167 million lost per day
Missouri, $162 million lost per day
New Jersey, $289 million lost per day
New York, $700 million lost per day
Ohio, $300 million lost per day
Pennsylvania, $370 million lost
Utah, $66 million lost per day
Virginia, $260 million lost per day
Wisconsin, $149 million lost per day
The political cost of snowstorms. Voters have long memories when impassable winter roads cost them time, loss of income and inconvenience. Residents often look for someone to blame as public officials have seen in Chicago, New York, and even cities not accustomed to big snowstorms, such as Atlanta. Expectations are increasingly high, no matter where people live, when safety and the economy are at stake.
The worst snowstorms list. Everyone loves a good list, especially when it brings back memories of snowstorms gone by in your area. Check your archives for compelling images. Consider asking your audience to share their own pictures online, and perhaps vote on what they consider the worst snowstorms they remember. Here are ways this story has been done in Boston, Chicago, Detroit and Atlanta.
How do professional snowfighters prepare. The Roadway Safety Foundation travels around the country to interview snowfighters and state DOT officials.
Where does road salt come from? How does it work? The salt on the roads comes from well under them. CBS News took a five-minute elevator ride down 1,800 feet into a sprawling salt mine below the city of Cleveland. If you aren’t able to visit a salt mine you can still explain how sodium chloride prevents and melts ice, and where it is stored in your area.
After the storm, give credit where it is due. If municipal crews have kept winter roads open and safe, explain how it happened and what lessons can be learned, as this American Highway Users Alliance video did.
The economic impact of snowstorms (Highway Users Alliance)
Big Snow Storms Can Make Or Break Politicians (NPR transcript, audio)
Snow & Politics: A volatile mix (Chicago Examiner)
Nationwide snowstorms wreak havoc for businesses, economy
Mayors Grow Attuned to the Politics of Snow Removal (New York Times)
Politicians’ reputations can be buried by snowstorms (Washington Post)
Bloomberg Takes Blame for Response to Snowstorm (New York Times)
The Salt Guru: Coping with Winter (Salt Institute)
Salt of the Earth: A Winter Weather Staple (CBS)
How the pros fight snow in Syracuse, N.Y (Highway Users Alliance)
Thumbs up to Frederick County, Md., snow and ice removal crews (Highway Users Alliance)
Cars sliding on ice like hockey pucks in Seattle (YouTube)
Cars, bicycles, pedestrians, wiping out on ice in the Netherlands (YouTube, forward to :52 for action to start)
“Ice Storm Insanity” slideshow(YouTube)