Why Weather Data Is the Hottest New Commodity for Brands and Businesses

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Had the severity grown to crisis levels, Lucas McDonald, a former TV weatherman who leads the chain's emergency operations, might have called in dozens of workers to support the handful who are posted at the division's command center in 24/7 shifts. The full-house team--typically assembled only a few times a year--would help coordinate relief efforts, adjust supply routes and disseminate information to affected stores, a playbook the company has perfected through two exceptionally hectic hurricane seasons. "Right now, we're having conversations with some of our merchants on when the right time to ship more supplies into places like Florida and the Southeast would be ahead of any possible redevelopment from Dorian after it makes its way through Hispaniola," McDonald says. Meanwhile, in Dallas, meteorologists at Southwest Airlines mapped out contingency plans for rerouting and canceling flights given various possible hurricane scenarios. And in the Atlanta nerve center of IBM-owned Weather Company, forecasters relayed storm data and analysis to corporate clients like State Farm, which in turn used it to inform IBM Watson conversational ad units that spread safety information.