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Blizzards in Massachusetts

Massachusetts has been hit by more than one record-setting snow event in its long history. Between the hilly terrain and the fluctuating elevation levels, it’s no surprise that the region sees more than four feet of snow at times. As we prepare for another winter, it’s helpful to take a look back at some historical blizzards and how they impacted life in Massachusetts for homeowners, small business owners, and those left cleaning up the pieces.

The blizzard of ‘78

It’s hard to bring up blizzards in Massachusetts without thinking of the devastating New England blizzard of 1978. The storm hit the Bay area on February 6 and lasted for two days, breaking previous records, with Boston being hit with more than 27 inches of snow and Rockport cleaning up an incredible 32 inches. Sadly, the blizzard of ‘78 caused 73 deaths and sent more than 4,500 residents for medical attention.

1992 Nor’easter      

On December 13, 1992, Massachusetts was hit with another news-worthy winter event. The nor’easter brought snow, sleet, rain, and high wind gusts to the state, ultimately dumping more than four feet of snow in a single day. The wind and snow mix created snowdrifts higher than 10 feet in the Berkshires and record-high flooding in Boston, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Winter Storm Nemo of 2013

In February of 2013, a powerful blizzard, later named Winter Storm Nemo, swept across the Northeastern parts of the United States into Canada. Due to the size of this storm, five states reported snowfall greater than 30 inches, including, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, and Maine. In addition to massive amounts of snow, the region experienced hurricane-force winds that were recorded as high as 102 mph. Nemo was the cause of 18 deaths and 700,000 homes and businesses left without power.

Winter Storm Juno

Late January of 2015, Massachusetts saw a blizzard, named Juno after the Roman goddess of childbirth and marriage, that brought with it the most snow in one day in the state’s history. Worcester, MA made history with a nearly 32-inch snow day, which was recorded as the highest single-day snowfall. Although Juno stood out, the region got hit with several more snowstorms during that February, forcing residents, entrepreneurs, and emergency personnel to modify their recovery plans. The Milton area of Massachusetts reported a total of 150.8 inches of snow during the 2014 to 2015 winter season.

Winter Storm Kenan

Kenan is the massive blizzard that dumped 30.9 inches of snow on January 29, 2022 in areas near Boston and Stoughton. The storm affected Massachusetts and parts of New England over a 24-hour period, leaving more than 2 feet of snow and bringing wind gusts stronger than 80 mph in a lot of areas. The number of reported power outages reached 100,000 with the South Shore and Cape Cod seeing the most damage.

Assistance for blizzard-impacted small businesses

In the aftermath of the most recent weather-related disaster, Massachusetts learned that there were several non-profit, government, and private organizations on board to help communities recover from storm damage. Local news outlets and government agencies worked hard to get the word out about financial assistance and business resources for local businesses impacted by the storm. Information was shared through news conferences, government agency websites, social media platforms, and email updates.

Shortly after Winter Storm Kenan hit Massachusetts earlier this year, many organizations stepped up to provide community support and business assistance. Some of the recovery efforts are still ongoing in Massachusetts as homeowners and small business owners prepare for the upcoming 22-23 winter season. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) worked with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency to evaluate the storm damage, approximate repair costs, and receive a federal disaster declaration.

Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC)

The Massachusetts growth capital corporation is a public agency formed in 2010 when the Massachusetts Community Development Finance Corporation and the Economic Stabilization Trust organizations came together. The organization works with local banks and financial institutions to provide economic development to local areas through funding programs, financial assistance, technical assistance grant programs, and disaster assistance. MGCC provided millions of dollars to Massachusetts business owners that utilized their Small Business Resource Guide throughout the Coronavirus pandemic and the 2021-2022 blizzard season.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

As an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Corporate Citizenship Center’s Community Resilience and Disaster Response Program helps individuals and businesses globally. The main purpose of the organization is to help government agencies work with local communities to communicate better during times of disaster increasing the efficiency of disaster preparedness and recovery. The Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce remains connected to this network to help businesses recover from Winter Storm Kenan and prepare for upcoming events. 

Small Business Development Center

The Massachusetts Small Business Development Center (MSBDC) helps small business owners operating in the state with free or low-cost business assistance including start-up assistance, growth strategy consultations, training, mitigation, and business plan development. As businesses recover from Winter Storm Kenan and other disaster-related losses, the MSBDC steps up to provide resources like cash flow analysis, marketing tips, and access to non-conventional financing.

Small business loans for Massachusetts’ business owners

There are several small business loan programs that exist to help entrepreneurs take on the costs of disaster recovery. If your business is impacted by a blizzard or other natural disaster, consider the following disaster recovery loans:

SBA Loans

The U.S. small business administration (SBA) is a government agency that aids small business owners, including providing financial assistance for disaster relief.

Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL)EIDL loans are funding programs for small businesses, agricultural cooperatives, and most private for-profit or nonprofit organizations that have suffered economic losses as a result of a declared disaster. EIDL loan amounts of up to $2 million are available to eligible businesses and approved based on the amount of documented economic injury to the business.

Physical Disaster Loans – This type of disaster loan covers the costs of repairing and replacing uninsured or underinsured property that has been damaged during a disaster. The proceeds from physical disaster loans can be used to replace or repair commercial real estate, equipment, and inventory. These loans are issued for up to $2 million with repayment terms as long as 30 years. Unlike other types of business financing, the SBA may increase physical disaster loan amounts by up to 20% to protect the borrowers’ property against future damage.

Disaster loan eligibility

SBA disaster loans are beneficial to businesses because they offer low interest rates, low down payments, and long repayment terms. Disaster loans are granted to businesses that operate within a declared disaster zone. To confirm if your area has been declared a disaster zone, check SBA’s current declared disaster page. If your area has not been officially named a disaster zone, there are other financing options you may want to consider, like:

Applying for a disaster loan

Eligible small businesses can apply for a disaster loan on the SBA portal or at an SBA disaster center, although many find it helpful to consult with a small business lending expert to explore SBA and business lender loan options first. Before applying for any type of disaster assistance, business owners must first register with FEMA and obtain a registration number. Documentation that may be requested to complete the loan application process includes:

  • Contact information and proof of identification for borrowers, like a passport or social security card
  • FEMA registration number
  • Real estate deed or lease information
  • Insurance policy information
  • Business bank account details
  • Employer Identification Number (EIN), available from the IRS

Preventing property damage ahead of natural disasters

At times of uncertainty, it’s reassuring to know there’s government agencies, lenders, and nonprofits there to help small business communities. However, it’s important for entrepreneurs to proactively protect their businesses from future blizzards, floods, and other losses.

Assess risks and document a plan

Whether your business operates out of a physical location, remotely, or is mobile, every small business owner should conduct a risk assessment. Brainstorm with key staff members to list ways your business could be impacted by weather, terrorism, fire, theft, and more. Consider the ways those unpreventable events can affect your revenues, available working capital, and bottom line. While you’re working with your team, discuss ways your business can recover from resulting losses. Take some time to document the process. Consider answering the following questions in your continuity plan:

  • How will we inform employees, vendors, and customers of the disaster?
  • Who is responsible for handling insurance claims?
  • Which vendors will we turn to for property damage clean-up and repairs?
  • How will we operate if we have no power or if real estate is damaged?

Connect with resources

When Winter Storm Kenan devastated Massachusetts, a lot of help with financial, business, and technical resources were provided by local organizations and government programs. It’s important to know whom to turn to if there is a crisis. Make a list of disaster resources in your area and consider getting familiar with what each does and how to get in contact with them.  Some great places to start in your area include:

Be prepared financially

The impact of a blizzard, fire, flood, or another disaster can take a business owner by surprise, but it’s important to know where you will stand financially. The financial impact of a blizzard on your small business may include:

  • Renovations to repair property damage to buildings, vehicles, equipment
  • Lost revenue for business interruptions
  • Employee benefit compensation during repair
  • Storm cleanup – including debris removal, snow removal, ice treatment

While the purpose of business insurance is to help small businesses recover from unexpected losses, insurance claims take time to file. It is a great idea to prepare a sensitivity analysis so you have an idea how long you can survive financially without ordinary income. If possible, have three to six months’ worth of operating expenses set aside. This will allow you to pay everyday expenses like utility bills, insurance premiums, payroll, mortgage payments, taxes, and subscriptions. Consider opening a savings account to build your emergency fund reserve or taking out a business line of credit, which is a type of revolving credit. A line of credit works when borrowers are approved for a maximum credit line and can then draw capital from the line anytime they need fast funding. Having a line of credit is a great way to prepare for the unexpected.

Final Thoughts

Massachusetts has seen several devastating snowstorms in the last decade. Extreme weather can damage land, buildings, equipment, and interrupt business. During the disaster recovery period, it can be helpful to reach out to local resources like the MGCC or a Small Business Development Corporation and learn about available assistance programs. Disaster loans backed by the SBA are a common type of financial assistance used to recover from blizzard damage. Consider working with a qualified lender at Biz2Credit to learn about disaster loans or proactive funding plans, like a business line of credit. You may be surprised at the number of options you have, like Vista Pharmaceuticals learned when Biz2Credit helped them secure a large SBA loan with a low interest rate.

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