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The snowy winter is a threat to more than your lower back

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Already this winter, cities across the country have seen record snowfalls. Some might be expected, like the 39 inches of snow in and around Detroit that set a new monthly record in January. Other areas that have seen snow might be less expected, like the two inches of snow that fell on Atlanta, stranding drivers for hours and leading to deadly car accidents across the area.

It’s only February and already the extreme weather is causing havoc that may have far-reaching implications for the country, including the economy that is just beginning to get going again. This week, reports began to come in, citing the severe weather for shortfalls in everything from manufacturing activity to car sales and even job creation.

American families are also feeling the sting in their monthly bills. Natural gas prices hit a 4-year high last week and surged nearly 10% in one day yesterday. And natural gas is not the only commodity in high-demand. There is already a shortage of salt. Cities across the Midwest have used far more than they typically would at this point in the year salting roads and sidewalks. Some areas are rationing salt. Others are paying higher prices to bring it in by train from Utah and Canada.

What remains to be seen is just how widespread an impact the so-called polar vortex will have on the overall economy, when other industries like airlines, retailers and restaurants reveal how deeply affected they have been by the extreme winter of 2014.