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Cold cash: These businesses love a severe winter

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This has been a historically rough winter for people and companies in many parts of the U.S. Bitter freezing temperatures and record-breaking snowfall have hurt bottom lines at thousands of restaurants, movie theaters, big retailers and other businesses that rely on customers coming outside.

But not everybody is cursing Mother Nature. Other business sectors have had windfall profits this season, thanks to those same numb-inducing temperatures and mountains of snow.

Here are six of them.

Snow removal

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Market researcher IBISWorld reports that snowplowing is a growth industry that now employs over 260,000 people and generates $17 billion in revenue annually.

In contrast to many winters, landscaping companies that offer snow removal services have found that side of the business is booming this season.

Carmen Caltabiano, with Greenscape Unlimited in Maryland, told CBS affiliate WJZ that snow removal is bringing in "probably four times the amount of income for the company ... from the last two years to this year."

Plumbers

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Frozen and burst pipes, floods, failing sump pumps: Problems like these are common winter mishaps for homeowners, but they add up to additional income for the plumbing industry.

One of the reasons plumbers are so in demand this time of year, said Nelson Furtado, the owner of King's Plumbing in Fall River, Massachusetts, is that some homeowners aren't monitoring and maintaining their heating systems.

"People really need to be proactive if they don't want to get cold," he told The Herald News. "Pipes are freezing and then they are busting. People try to save a buck by turning their thermostat down. In the end, they will pay more."

Heating contractors

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The severe winter weather has also put a strain on home heating systems, raising the possibility of homeowners finding themselves without heat in subfreezing temperatures.

Jeremy Noll, residential service manager for Isaac Heating and Air Conditioning in Rochester, N.Y., told CBS affiliate WROC his company has been answering hundreds of calls from customers with broken furnaces and other issues.

"General breakdowns, poor motors, flame sensors, igniters, things like that," he said. "That really just comes from furnaces running on a regular basis."

Streaming video services

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One way to avoid becoming hut-happy when the weather has you housebound is to tune in to the latest hit TV series.

Financial reporter Suzanne McGee at The Guardian noted that Netflix (NFLX) share prices jumped last month after the streaming video company announced it was developing a live-action series based on a popular video game.

But McGee said she's willing to bet the stock jump is also due in part to "speculation by investors that Netflix has added a lot of new subscribers in the north-east who now have become addicted to binge-watching series like House of Cards and Downton Abbey and won't relinquish the habit even when they can carve tunnels to the outer world once more."

Hardware

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Industry analysts say in states where the winter weather has been a major disruption, some of the big home improvement outlets could see a negative financial impact during the first quarter of 2015 -- due to their customers being stuck at home or unwilling to begin a major home project in the dead of winter.

But the winter weather has been a boon for many smaller hardware stores, lots of which are having trouble keeping snow-removal products in stock. Earlier this week, Heather Thurman, assistant manager at the Ace Hardware in Bowling Green, Kentucky, said her store sold 80 shovels in less than an hour and 50 bags of salt in about two hours.

"We had people standing outside the store waiting to get in" on Wednesday morning, she told the Bowling Green Daily News.

"When the weather is inclement, it's great for business," Bill Stockbridge, owner of Central Center Hardware in Chillicothe, Ohio, said during an interview with the Chillicothe Gazette. "We have extremely good business when it's bad."

Auto body shops

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Winter means poor driving conditions, which also means a lot of drivers are vulnerable to crashes, fender-benders and other costly accidents this season.

In late December, after one of the first major snowfalls in Minneapolis, Ramin Hakimi, owner of Oscar Auto Body, reported a 30 percent jump in his business.

"The phone has been ringing off the hook," Hakimi told CBS affiliate WCCO. "So many calls, I couldn't even possibly answer them all. There're times when it's really overwhelming, and we can only do the best we can."

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