Bitter cold, frosty mornings, and snow-drenched landscapes — breathtaking scenery that winter brings to the U.S. Winter carries an air of enchantment but also breeds a host of challenges businesses often grapple with.
A bitter reality that prompts the question – how can businesses across sectors mitigate severe winter weather hazards?
Before diving into potential safeguards, let’s first examine the two most impactful winter storms from last season, which generated the highest volume of alerts across industries. Analyzing these disruptive events illustrates why resilience strategies are crucial.
The Most Impactful Storms of 2022/23
As highlighted in our recent Operator’s Winter Almanac, two severe winter storms stood out for generating the highest volume of alerts across industries this past winter. By examining the impacts of these disruptive events, we can understand why resilience strategies are crucial.
February 24, 2023 Blizzard
What Happened: This far-reaching winter storm brought heavy snow, blizzard conditions, and bitter cold to much of the central and eastern U.S. Snowfall exceeding a foot paralyzed travel from the Dakotas through the Great Lakes, with whiteout conditions forcing closures of major interstates. Nearly 500,000 lost power in Michigan as ice accumulation downed trees and power lines. Further east, a messy mix of freezing rain and ice pellets caused thousands of flight cancellations before changing to rain.
The Impacts: The storm’s expansive reach disrupted operations and supply chains nationwide. Travel was halted, supply chains interrupted, and infrastructure damaged across sectors.
How Tomorrow Helped Teams Adapt:
- Hyperlocal weather alerts enabled proactive planning and mitigation based on impacts to specific assets.
- Predictive power outage forecasts optimized utility restoration.
- Wind alerts prevented crane mishaps and ensured construction site safety.
December 21-26, 2022 Holiday Storm
What Happened: In the days leading up to Christmas, a sprawling winter storm brought snow, high winds, extreme cold, and near-blizzard conditions from the Midwest through the Northeast. Minneapolis, Chicago, and Detroit faced hours of heavy snowfall amid frigid temperatures. Snowfall of 6-12″ accumulated from Minnesota to Ohio, with upwards of 4-5 feet in the Buffalo, NY area. An arctic blast followed, with temps plunging below zero. Whiteout conditions closed interstates as gusts exceeded 50 mph.
The Impacts: Ultimately, over 6 million lost power, thousands of flights were canceled, and rail service was suspended. This disruptive storm heavily impacted holiday travel and logistics.
How Tomorrow Helped Teams Adapt:
- Pinpointed snow depth forecasts optimized sidewalk/runway treatment and clearing.
- Cold weather alerts prevented mechanical failures and infrastructure damage.
- Route optimization navigation avoided dangerous road segments.
Now let’s explore potential safeguards businesses can implement to avoid the catastrophic consequences of extreme winter weather scenarios.
To gain insights into practical strategies for leveraging advanced weather analytics, we spoke with Vinny Renaldi, Manager of Customer Success at Tomorrow.io.
In this blog are key insights from our in-depth interview. You can watch the entire discussion below.
The Need for Hyperlocal Weather Data
In the past, many organizations have relied on basic apps and public weather information to prepare for winter hazards. However, these generic forecasts are often precisely that: generic. They lack the nuanced, hyperlocal data needed to make operational decisions.
As Vinny explained: “A lot of times, organizations are using a weather app that repackages governmental data. And what [Tomorrow.io] does is we provide proprietary data that brings safety protocols to life. When I say that, most of the time, when you’re receiving an alert, it’s based on a county-level advisory. We’re making this customized, actionable solution based on their protocols.”
Public weather reports typically cover entire counties. But conditions can vary drastically within a few miles. For businesses to drive real value from a weather forecast, they need location-specific weather insights tied to their internal protocols. When organizations know how weather impacts their daily operations and desired outcomes, we can change how we proactively prepare for the incoming weather.
Customizable Parameters for Each Industry
The impacts of winter weather differ across industries: A light dusting of snow may shut down a Texas airport, while a Massachusetts logistics company continues deliveries unphased by the weather. What these businesses monitor for will also differ; transportation companies may focus on monitoring ice accumulation, snowfall totals, and wind chill to ensure safety. Aviation companies will watch for frost and wind to protect ground workers.
To account for these differences, Tomorrow.io offers fully customizable weather parameters based on each business’s unique needs. Clients can track metrics like:
- Snow accumulation
- Freezing rain
- Ice accumulation
- Wind chill
Vinny explains: “We break it down into different varieties of freezing rain, sleet, windchill. And I think looking at those specific data layers is what allows them to be more robust when it comes to the actual reporting to improve overall safety and improve operational decision making.”
This tailored approach provides actionable insights instead of blanket advisories.
Tomorrow.io helps customers identify the weather data layers most relevant to their business activities. If a business needs to stop operations when snow depth hits a certain threshold, Tomorrow.io enables setting custom alerts based on that criteria. Enabling this alert allows companies to make data-driven decisions to mitigate risks and reduce disruptions.
Transitioning to a Proactive Mindset with Advanced Notice
Advanced notice is critical for mitigating winter weather risks. However, sifting through advisories can be time-consuming. Advanced weather tech offers customized alerts triggered by location-specific thresholds.
As Vinny described, “We were setting an alert configuration in place where they were receiving alerts 12 hours out and then one hour out. And what that did was the 12 hour alert went to the supervisor; he was able to then be aware of an impactful weather event. And then the one-hour advisory went to a user group within the platform, so that way they were able to be proactive and get a heads up.”
With automated notifications, your team eliminates guesswork and keeps all stakeholders aligned. Users can also opt for consolidated email digests rather than constant pings.
This advanced notice allows managers to implement safety protocols and make necessary resource adjustments proactively. It gives them time to confirm procedures, equipment needs, scheduling changes, etc. When you have the information ahead of time, even if it’s just a few hours, you improve your team’s ability to be proactive about the weather rather than reactive to it, giving you a leg up against the competition and the ability to maintain employee safety and operations in the future.
Near-term alerts shortly before a storm keep staff updated on conditions as events unfold and help businesses understand the impact the weather will have on them.
The Future of Weather Intelligence
While Tomorrow.io already provides robust winter weather support, they continually refine capabilities based on customer feedback.
Some exciting features on the horizon, according to Vinny, include:
- Animated snow accumulation mapping
- Enhanced snow depth tracking
- Additional customization of alert triggers
The company also noted investments in API integrations that pipe Tomorrow.io data into third-party apps and systems.
Weathering Any Storm with Tomorrow.io
As Vinny summarizes, Tomorrow.io offers end-to-end weather intelligence: “We help [organizations] identify which weather data, which weather data layers are gonna be most important to their operations, and then align with that single source of truth and help them send out alerts for the weather in regards to their desired business outcomes.”
With real-time tracking, customizable parameters, and proactive alerts, businesses can tackle volatile winter conditions head-on. Weather intelligence transforms reactive scenarios into data-driven strategies for mitigating risk and maximizing operations despite the weather.
Now more than ever, organizations need reliable weather insights tailored to their unique needs. By leveraging AI-powered solutions like Tomorrow.io, leaders can weather any storm.
AI-Powered Weather Intelligence for Every Industry
While winter weather affects every industry, Vinny noted that transportation, logistics, and aviation are often most severely impacted due to public safety risks. However, any company can experience substantial revenue, scheduling, and resourcing effects from winter storms.
One key point he emphasized is that ideal weather data parameters and risk thresholds are heavily dependent on geographic location. A moderate snow event in one region could significantly disrupt another area less accustomed to winter conditions. Tomorrow.io helps customers define location-specific alerts tailored to their risk tolerance.
Advice for Business Leaders Relying on Traditional Forecasts
For organizations still using consumer weather apps or public forecasts, Vinny stressed the importance of aligning with a centralized weather data source. Relying on different forecasts and data can lead to communication breakdowns and inconsistent decision-making.
Tomorrow.io provides a “single source of truth” for tailored weather intelligence. However, Renaldi noted it can be good to have supplementary sources. Within Tomorrow.io, customers can view National Weather Service alerts layered on top of proprietary forecast data. This feature allows comparing data sets while maintaining alignment on actions driven by the core system.
Innovations on the Horizon
Looking ahead, Vinny highlighted several exciting innovations in development that will bring even more value to Tomorrow.io customers. One example is enhancing snow accumulation data by animating the forecasted buildup over time, giving a clear visualization of the magnitude of an approaching winter storm.
Additional improvements will continue expanding the weather parameters available, driven by direct customer feedback on their greatest operational needs. The platform’s flexibility enables Tomorrow.io to continually add new capabilities as businesses identify ways to leverage weather insights.
As Vinny summarized, Tomorrow.io aims to provide end-to-end weather intelligence – from identifying the most valuable data parameters to configuring alerts optimized for business outcomes. By leveraging AI and machine learning, Tomorrow.io transforms raw weather forecasts into actionable insights tailored to each company’s risk tolerance, safety protocols, and operations.
With the ability to make data-driven decisions, take proactive precautions, and streamline communication, organizations using Tomorrow.io are better positioned to mitigate risks and minimize disruptions from volatile winter weather.