Market Overview

Alaska Hit With Snow-Filled Hurricane


Today would be a bad day to be in Alaska.

While some might argue that EVERY day is a bad day to be in Alaska, the storm currently destroying the coastal areas of Alaska shows that damaging weather can hit anywhere, anytime.

When it hits a highly populated, connected area (like, say, a blizzard in New York City), there are resources in place to keep everyone safe and warm until the situation calms down. When it hits in the middle of nowhere, simple things like "cell phone communication" or electricity become absolute unknowns, making it difficult for first responders to even know where they should go to respond.

Somewhere around 2 am Wednesday morning, a storm with 80 to 90 mph winds hit coastal Alaska, including the city of Nome. Major damage reports were trickling in earlier, and now the state is waiting to see how bad the flooding will be. Yes, that's right. A giant blizzard with hurricane winds and flooding. If they could somehow add a massive fire and maybe an earthquake, we could start looking around for the other three horsemen of the apocalypse.

"We do have some reports of buildings losing roofs in the Nome area," said meteorologist Scott Berg at the National Weather Service in Fairbanks. "Also water at the base of buildings in Nome." It's possible that a storm surge would add seven feet of water to the communities, further complicating any efforts to return citizens to their homes.

For our readers back in the lower 48, Alaska has a larger corporate footprint than one might imagine. Depending on the severity, reach, and duration of the storm, some of these companies might see a loss in short-term business. There are a series of airlines that operate from the state, including Alaska Air (NYSE: ALK). In addition to passengers, ALK also handles some air mail and freight for Alaska and parts of the west coast.

Oil companies also have a large presence in Alaska, as there are billions in reserves up there, as well as pipelines. Conoco-Phillips (NYSE: COP) and Marathon (NYSE: MRO) are two that come to mind. While a quick rebound wouldn't likely affect oil companies or oil prices, a lengthy storm followed by a long rebuild (if massive damage exists) could drag oil prices up. You could also look at oil ETFs, such as the iPath S&P GSCI Crude Oil Total Return (NYSE: OIL) to play either side of that equation.

Another industry that could be impacted is the tourism industry. Alaska hosts many cruise ships, although obviously not as many in the middle of a blizzard. Look at companies like Carnival Cruise (NYSE: CCL), which operates a few different lines in the area, including Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises (Princess) and Seabourn.

Lastly, as I mentioned above, communications in Alaska are tricky right now. This is hardly a surprise, considering floods, a blizzard, and 90 mph winds. Nonetheless, one company is responsible for a chunk of that communication, and could see some funding for a rebuild, if this storm morphs into something out of a sci-fi flick. Alaska Communications Systems Group (NASDAQ: ALSK) has two undersea fiber optic cable systems, which means it can more than weather this weather. Maybe they'll get some good press and more opportunities, if they can shine through these troubled days ahead?

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