Nov. 1, 2012 -- In the same way that Hurricane Sandy tossed boats around and flattened homes, it plucked money out of some businesses' pockets and dumped it into others'. Here's a quick rundown on the superstorm's biggest business winners and losers.
The Weather Channel: The Weather Channel had the biggest audience of any cable channel Sunday, attracting 39 million viewers, according to Nielsen. The Weather Channel's website got close to a half-billion page views Monday, more than double what it got during its coverage of Hurricane Irene last year, according to the New York Post.
Netflix: In anticipation of the Hurricane, New York magazine's cultural website, Vulture, listed "27 Movies and TV Shows to Stream That Will Distract You From Sandy." Whether because of such advice or from boredom and cabin fever, viewers in Baltimore, Washington, New York, Philadelphia and other hurricane-hit cities responded enthusiastically. The company's East Coast viewership doubled during the hurricane, a Netflix representative said.
Hardware and Building-Supply Stores: USA Today quoted spokesmen for Sears, Home Depot, Ace Hardware and other retailers of storm supplies as saying merchandise was flying out the doors. A Sears spokesman said Tuesday that more than 100 truckloads of "generators, chainsaws, wet and dry vacuums, flashlights, batteries and lanterns, along with dehumidifiers, utility and sump pumps" were headed east from 42 distribution centers as far west as Memphis and Chicago. An Ace Hardware manager listed the biggest-selling items as: sump pumps, shop vacs, mops, brooms, cleaners, bleach and chainsaws.
Neighborhood joints in Manhattan and other cities that defied the storm and stayed open for business: They won good-will if not profits, according to the Huffington Post, because places like Big Nick's Burger & Pizza Joint on Manhattan's Upper West Side saw spikes in sales offset by increased transportation costs incurred by employees' having to use cabs and car services to get to work, rather than public transportation.
American Apparel: Retailer offered hurricane-themed sales promotions aimed at homebound shoppers. ABC News reported that company late Monday evening offered a "Sandy Sale" to customers in affected states. "In case you're bored during the storm, 20 percent off everything for the next 36 hours," an email advertisement from the company said. Complaints almost immediately poured in from customers outraged by what some viewed as an atrocious lapse of taste.
Urban Outfitters: Not to be outdone (in the bad taste department) sent out a mass email Monday morning announcing, "This Storm Blows, But Free Shipping on All Orders Doesn't." Animated cats and dogs were shown cascading down the ad, ABC reported. Here, too, complaints about bad taste poured in.
Airlines and Rail Carriers: Airlines, including American and U.S. Airways, were forced to cancel more than 12,000 flights at the peak of the storm, according to the Wall Street Journal, costing them millions of dollars in lost revenue. CSX, the largest rail carrier on the Eastern seaboard, had to suspend service, closing its tracks from Richmond to Albany, N.Y., because of the storm.
Google: The company Monday had to cancel Manhattan events intended to publicize Google's release of its new Nexus 10 tablet. (The release itself went off as planned).
Cruise Lines: As separately reported by ABC News, the hurricane disrupted the schedules of cruise ships coming or going from East coast ports. Norwegian Cruise Line's Gem departed New York Oct. 20 for a nine-day Caribbean cruise. It was due to return on the Oct. 29 but could not, because of the closures of New York harbor. Passengers had to kill time at sea, waiting for the storm to clear and the port to reopen.
Five nuclear power plants in Sandy's path experienced storm-related problems: The Indian Point plant in Buchanan, N.Y., 40 miles from Manhattan, was forced to shut down power, according to ABC News. The plant's operator, Entergy, attributed the shutdown to "an electrical grid disturbance" stemming from the storm.
Viacom-Comedy Central: With studios in flood-prone lower Manhattan, producers had to cancel tapings of such hit shows as "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and the "Colbert Report."
Insurers: Sandy could cost up to $50 billion, and insurers are bracing for "a flood of storm claims," according to The Boston Globe. Liberty Mutual, the largest property insurer based in Boston, has been moving some of its adjusters from other parts of the country east, in anticipation of the claims explosion, the newspaper reported. "We anticipate a significant call volume over the next few days," a company spokesman said. "This [was] a 1,000-mile storm."