Arrow-right Camera


Blizzard Blasts Business

Tue., Jan. 9, 1996

From the corner diner to the world’s largest stock market, businesses throughout the Northeast were shuttered or hobbled Monday by a blizzard that turned bustling cities eerily quiet.

Snow fell and winds howled through most of the day, prompting stockbrokers and government bond traders to leave work early and other market participants to stay home. The shortened trading day rippled far beyond the storm’s edges.

In other ways, the blizzard’s impact was local.

At the Highlands Cafe Restaurant, a diner in Upper Manhattan, the coffee and eggs were moving Monday morning, albeit slowly. The restaurant’s owner manned the grill as only half the staff showed up.

“Service was slow, but everybody was served,” said waitress Monica Del Carpio. “It was busy. Not crazy, but it kept us busy.”

Many major corporations, however, gave workers the day off and kept offices locked. A recorded message at International Paper Co. in suburban Purchase, N.Y., announced the world’s largest paper company’s closure. Drugmaker Merck & Co. shuttered its Whitehouse Station, N.J., headquarters.

At Merck’s headquarters, which houses 1,800 employees on a normal day, just a dozen maintenance and security workers kept watch.

“The roads are impassable,” said spokesman John Doorley. Like others at the company, Doorley said he was able to get some work done anyway, via phone, electronic mail and fax.

While the snow and winds foiled commuters, it wasn’t enough to derail the takeover frenzy that made 1995 the most prolific ever for mergers. Defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. and smaller rival Loral Corp. announced a $9.4 billion merger deal.

The New York Stock Exchange, the world’s biggest stock market, opened late and closed early for its first weather-shortened trading session since Feb. 11, 1994. The delay caused ripple effect disruptions in other important markets including the Chicago commodity pits. Government bond trading ended at noon. Prices were little changed.

The New York Mercantile Exchange, the world’s biggest petroleum market, closed for the day and said it would delay its Tuesday morning opening. Like the Nymex, the New York Commodity Exchange and the New York Coffee, Sugar and Cocoa Exchange were closed.

Travel remained hazardous, particularly for air travelers.

American Airlines spokesman Tim Smith said 534 flights were canceled Monday alone, nearly a quarter of its total. The cost to American and other airlines was expected to be in the millions of dollars.

“You’re not talking peanuts,” said Lee Howard, president of Airline Economics International Inc.

The traveler’s bane was the tow trucker’s boom.

“We’ve all been working around the clock pretty much - mostly winch outs, dead batteries, people abandoning their vehicles on the side of the roads, sliding off the roads,” said Robert Helupka, owner of Bob’s Towing in Greenwich, Conn. His daily phone call volume quadrupled to about 100 and he charged $50 to $75 a tow.

Tags: weather

Click here to comment on this story »