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What's the Storm's Impact on Businesses, Economy?

Evan Gold, Planalytics, discusses the economic impact of the blizzard in the Northeast., including the retail winners and losers.
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Unless winter storm Juno has another two feet of snow hidden in her pockets to dump on New York, the economic impact of the blizzard is likely to be muted with predictions ranging from as low as $500 million to up to $1 billion, analysts said Tuesday.

"We think the economic impact of the storm is going to be relatively small," said Evan Gold, senior vice president at weather advisory firm Planalytics.

"We're estimating at about $500 million, and that's simply based on the duration of the storm, the timing of the storm, and the population centers that are impacted," he said in a "Squawk Box" interview on CNBC.

That compares with a $15 billion to $50 billion impact due to a polar vortex and significant snowfall early in 2014, he said.

Although firm estimates will need to gauge how quickly businesses are able to reopen after a driving ban and public-transportation stop ground much of the region's economies to a halt, it is possible that over-preparation for the winter storm cost states in the Northeast hundreds of millions of dollars—with some predictions crossing $1 billion.

"We think the economic impact of the storm is going to be relatively small."

A 2014 study from IHS Global Insight found that a major storm with "impassable" roads could have a significant economic impact with just a one-day shutdown. The research showed that a single day's shutdown in New York costs about $700.17 million, while Massachusetts loses about $265.12 million.

The study found that "the economic impact of snow-related closures far exceeds the cost of timely snow removal."

Two thirds of the direct economic losses of snow-related shutdowns come from hourly workers' pockets, that study said. Also of concern will be the indirect financial losses from the snow preparations, including loss of retail sales and sales tax revenues.

Working off of the IHS numbers, the Boston Globe predicted the direct and indirect costs could add up to $1 billion.

Still, the overall economic impact could be relatively muted — the $1 billion estimate is a far cry from TheStreet's $16 billion projection based on earlier forecasts — as many businesses would be able to resume normal functioning on Tuesday.

Home improvement retailers such as Home Depot and Lowe's are unlikely to see much of an impact on sales, Budd Bugatch, managing director at Raymond James, told "Squawk Box."

"Overall, I don't get very excited at these kind of events for these retailers," he said.

Three phases

Bugatch assesses a storm's impact on retailers in three phases.

In this case, the preparation phase was relatively short since forecasts came in over the weekend, he said. The storm itself creates a drag on retailers as stores shut down—about 400 for Home Depot and 300 for Lowe's in the affected areas, he added. "That might actually turn out in the final analysis to be the biggest impact here."

The aftermath is where retailers tend to get a boost. Home Depot saw about $500 million in improved sales in the four quarters after Hurricane Sandy, he said. This week's storm is unlikely to have a significant impact.

In the airline space, FlightAware reported that more than 7,000 flights scheduled for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were canceled.

The National Weather Service had warned of "crippling snowfall amounts" and potentially "life-threatening" blizzard conditions. Its New York office reported snow of between 6 and 10 inches early Tuesday. Eastern Long Island north through Massachusetts and Maine were now expected to fare the worst, with 1 to 3 feet of snow.

-- Tom DiChristopher and Everett Rosenfeld, CNBC