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Why the long, deep freeze may be affecting you in ways you don’t even realize

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CHINATOWN, NEW YORK (PIX11)– The long range forecast has temperatures in the New York City area remaining below freezing for most of the foreseeable future.  Long term cold has wide ranging effects on communities and the people who make up those communities in ways that aren’t always immediately apparent, as a variety of experts can attest.

Of course, there are also obvious ways that long-term, deep cold affects people, as Terri Jones demonstrated.

“Gloves, scarf, hat — two hats, actually — socks and thermals,” the tourist from Texas told PIX11 News.

She was visiting the storefronts on Canal Street,she said, the items she’d bought to help her cope with the cold.

She said that she’d spent “probably $300” on cold weather gear alone, and so had each of her two girlfriends, who were visiting New York with her.

Even locals, who are used to having cold weather outfits and accessories, are ponying up cases to handle the cold.

“I got a scarf and a hat, because it’s very cold, you know?” Bronx resident Pat David said, as she showed off the loot she’d picked up on Canal Street at bargain prices.

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Frigid weather has people spending money on winter gear.

“It started at $15,” she said about the shop and shopkeeper she’d just left.   “He brought it down to five dollars.”

All of the bundling up is necessary, but it’s also part of something else going on, according to a psychologist.

“Winter is a mixed bag,” Dr. Katherine Smerling told PIX11 News.  “For some people, it’s a chance to hibernate, its a chance to nest with their families, a chance to reflect and circulate inside, but for other people… they’re isolated.”

Whether the reaction is nesting or isolation, something else is going as a result.

“Too much cold, that’s why there’s no business,” a Chinatown shopkeeper, who would only give his name as Shawn, said.  His assessment doesn’t only apply to him, however.

According to the Federal Reserve and private economists, prolonged cold weather results in people spending less money.  In fact, in the last prolonged cold spell in the Northeast, during Dec. 2010 and Jan. 2011, the national economy lost $25 billion to $30 billion in gross domestic product, according to Planalytics, a business analysis firm.

Those kinds of losses can sadden people as well.  Ironically, some turn to winter retail therapy as a coping mechanism, which can be both practical and impulsive.  Dr. Smerling, the psychological expert, discovered that firsthand.

“I went into a shoe store,” she told PIX11 News, “because I know it’s going to snow on Saturday.  I wanted to get real boots that were waterproof.  They were sold out in my size in every single style.”

There is change on the horizon.  According to the Federal Reserve, even though overall spending slows down during deep freeze periods, typically, consumers make up for their spending deficits by buying more in the spring.