Data Shows Snowzilla Stopped People In Their Tracks

January 29, 2016

The January blizzard of 2016 got a lot of attention. But apart from the bother, did it impact activity? The Withings data team crunched the numbers and we have the results. Read on to find out more.

Dubbed “Snowzilla” or The Blizzard of 2016, snowfall totals for January 22nd broke and challenged records. Central Park in New York City received 26.8 in., Washington Dulles airport saw 29.3 in., and North Potomac Maryland got hit with 36.5 in. Headlines screamed, Snowzilla Paralyzes US From Washington to New York!
Personally, I had a blast. I live one mile from midtown Manhattan in a walkable town. My activity levels actually rose because blizzards are my fave natural disaster. I hoofed to the store, walked to neighbors’ houses for last-minute parties, and I hit 9,903 steps on the day of the storm (so close to goal!), which for me, is awesome.
But apparently, not everyone is as snow crazy as me. According to activity data analyzed by the Withings team, the East Coast, on average, took a big activity hit. Perhaps they were scared off by dire warnings or they just preferred to sip hot chocolate by the fire. They weren’t paralyzed, but they sure as heck weren’t moving as much. I reached out to award-winning children’s author and illustrator Bob Shea for comment. Shea lives on the east coast and told us that on the day of the storm, he and his family didn’t stir stump, adding, “I was firmly planted on the couch binge-watching my woodstove. The only time my heart rate went up was for the three minutes the internet went down.”
Funny ’cause it’s true.  And with that, get ready to play in some freshly-fallen snow/activity data you can roll around in…

Snowzilla activity by the numbers

Withings did an analysis on average daily steps during Snowzilla and one on the week before the storm. We chose 4 cities with the snow (Washington, New York, Baltimore and Philadelphia) and 3 cities on the West Coast without (LA, SF, Seattle).
The chart below represent the daily gap between the daily steps and average daily steps for the cities group.
We noticed that on the worst day of the storm, the cities with Snowzilla had a very noticeable drop in their activity: people in those cities walked 22% less than their daily average. In comparison, people in the West Coast cities walked a bit more than their own average (+5%).

Of course, as stated above, the snow level was not the same in all those cities. Maybe this explains why people from Washington were the most impacted by the snowfall. Washington D.C. residents walked 28% less than the average, whereas New York people only walked 20% less steps than usual. Below, you can see the snow-stricken cities and how their activity compared with one another.

So yes, parts of the US did slow down and we have proof. The good news is that the data shows the snow was a problem only for one day. The day after, people increased their activity level in all of these cities. The bad news? It’s probably because they were trying to dig out.



Susie Felber

Susie is a writer and producer who has worked in nearly every medium. As the daughter of a hard-working M.D., she's had a lifelong interest in health and is proud that she continues to lower her 5k time as she ages.
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