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Earthquake, hurricane Irene add to chaos of national economy headlines

Earthquake in D.C.

The magnitude 5.8 earthquake that struck Virginia was a rare but significant event for the region.

There seems to be no shortage of chaos in headlines lately, and not all of it on Wall Street.

Tuesday’s East Coast earthquake and the hurricane bearing down on Florida may seem like regional events but the stories they’ve generated today, and others waiting in the wings, are a good reminder that you can generally always find some sort of local tie to the major news events people are buzzing about.

The earthquake, for example — which even people up here in Detroit claimed to feel — apparently had an upside for Research in Motion, maker of the popular Blackberry device.  According to Bloomberg News, the Blackberry’s e-mail service continued to operate even as cellular telephone service was disrupted by the quake.   Potential biz features to spin off this development would include a survey of area businesses — what technology are they issuing to employees, and why?  What are they looking for in mobile telecomm devices?  Also, as I suggested in a recent blog post about cell phone hacking, stories about cell phone security, local real estate related to cell phone towers and other related angles are as plentiful as the ubiquitious little devices.

With earthquakes in the news a lot this year, you could find local experts from consulting firms that feature geologists and seismologists to archtects that specialize in disaster-proofing buildings for interesting profiles and features.  What sort of disaster preparedness is appropriate in your region based on climate and geology/geogrpahy?

Other quake-related economic stories included the national ripple effect on travel and tourism, and even disruption to baseball and other sporting events. One reason to check out stories spun off the earthquake is that Hurricane Irene or other storms (we’ve still got a lot of hurricane season to go, and then winter storms follow quickly) may be models for areas you’ll want to cover when the next disaster strikes.

For example, Reuters reports that Hurricane Irene could be the catalyst for higher insurance premiums nationwide, if the first big storm in three years actually wreaks any devastation.  The story also notes the toll natural disasters already have taken this year: $90 billion to insurers, or 20 percent more than 2009 and 2010 combined. As an investing story or a personal finance piece, this is a ripple effect that will touch every region, no matter how far from the eye of the storm.

The effect on stores and consumer goods makers as people stock up on supplies needed to weather a storm siege might be worth looking into — think fuel, medication, batteries and booze in addition to the standard bread and milk runs — might affect manufacturers, trucking firms and others in the supply chain far from Florida.  What about florists who depend on South American blooms flown into Miami for weddings, funerals and other events they’ve contracted to supply?  Charter companies sending tourists from your area to East Coast ports of call for cruises and other vacations?  Restaurants that rely on fresh coastal seafood?

As always, who benefits?  Alternate suppliers in non-damaged areas might get a short-term boost.  And bad storms are a boon for construction workers.  Check out this website operated by DryWallFlorida, which prepares in advance by recruiting itinerant construction workers to patch up storm damage.  Here’s a clip from the site:

It’s Hurricane Season 2011 and DryWallFlorida is building this seasons Atlantic Hurricane/Flood Damage Construction Worker Database.
We need people who are willing to travel with 48 to 72 hours notice into areas damaged by this seasons hurricanes and tropical storms. This program is in it’s ninth year and now supplies information to over 400 Partnered FEMA Hurricane Contractors.

Perhaps the company would  hook you up with registered workers from your area to talk about the pros and cons of getting temp work in other states.  Or, talk with your area’s workforce commission about disaster recovery jobs; this 2008 story by NPR profiles a program in Mississippi that trained women as construction workers so they could take advantage of post-storm opportunities.

In Basics, Beats, Economy, Featured, Media | Advertising, Melissa Preddy, Story ideas.

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