With Hurricane Matthew set to hit the southeastern U.S. on Friday, 2 million people have evacuated the region, and most businesses are battening down the hatches.
The insurance industry is estimating that Matthew could cause as much as $30 billion in damages, putting it in league with Hurricane Sandy, which wreaked $20 billion in damage to northeastern states in 2012. Meanwhile, businesses from Florida’s world-famous theme parks to standbys like Waffle House have closed up shop ahead of the storm. Friday represents only the fourth time in the history of Walt Disney World that its theme parks are closed, and guests who are staying at Disney hotels have been advised to remain indoors.
Even if Matthew isn’t as monumental a storm as predicted, the hurricane will be extremely costly to businesses. Still there is one silver lining, according to economists: Economic damage from natural disasters like storms is usually temporary. Lost sales are made up by pent-up demand when residents return to their homes; new construction to repair damaged roads and buildings eventually provides and economic jolt to make up for initial losses. Homeowners also spend thousands of dollars preparing for the arrival of hurricanes, with advance purchases of everything from blankets to battery-powered radios.
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For residents and homeowners, however, hurricanes cause nothing but hassles and heartache, including but not limited to the expense of fleeing the storm and the potential for injuries and even death. There are sometimes opportunistic local businesses to contend with as well. News outlets have received reports of price gouging at Florida gas stations, where worried evacuees have been lining up to fill their tanks.