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Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Business as usual, but stores ready for snow

Thursday, January 17, 2013

By SAM JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer

With the forecast of inclement weather today, some local merchants are preparing for the worst. However, they aren’t especially worried.

Travis Kendrick, assistant manager at Food Lion in Martinsville, said traffic at the supermarket had “picked up a little (Wednesday) but I think that’s because we were down the past couple of days because of the rain.”

“Tomorrow will probably be the (big) day,” he added.

The National Weather Service is predicting rain today, changing to snow late tonight, with accumulations of up to 4 inches of snow.

Kendrick said some of the store’s customers were talking about the weather Wednesday, but few seemed overly concerned. Of course, he said, that is because the run on stock-up items — specifically bread and milk — generally occurs closer to when the snowfall hits.

“Usually what happens is, if (snow) falls that night, it will show up on the 5 o’clock (weather) forecast, and we’ll get pounded after that,” he said.

At Lowes Food Store in Stuart, Manager Kevin Hall said customers were trying to “get in here a little early” Wednesday in anticipation of the weather, but traffic had been steady all day. He expected that to continue through this morning, he said.

“If the lunchtime crowd from today is any sign, we should be pretty busy,” he added.

Should a rush occur, however, Hall said the stock of bread and milk the store has on hand is all they will get.

If it has three or four days’ notice of a storm, Lowes will “bring us out some extra milk and things like bread,” Hall said, but because this snow forecast has come with less notice, there won’t be time to restock. The store’s milk typically is shipped from Hickory, N.C., and generally takes a few days to arrive.

Since the weather so far this season has been mild, essentials for managing the elements should be easy to find. Mark Nolen, retail manager at Ace Hardware in Stanleytown, said he’s barely moved any winter merchandise thus far.

“We’ve sold one or two bags of salt, and I sold a couple of sleds during Christmas,” he said. “It’s not like bread and milk; you only need one snow shovel. It’s been such a mild winter so far; what else do we talk about besides ice, snow melt and snow shovels?”

Instead, Nolen said that the store is selling paint and other hardware items that typically wouldn’t be moving in mid-winter. “We’ve even got people who are still buying fertilizer” for their lawns and gardens, he said.

Regardless of the conditions today, Nolen doesn’t expect to have inventory issues. “We’ve got plenty of merchandise here,” he said.

Both road and utility crews were ready as of Wednesday night to deal with weather-related issues.

Appalachian Power said in a release Wednesday that it had placed all contract line workers, damage assessors and tree crews on alert to respond to problems. The company also suggested its customers “prepare an emergency kit with flashlights and fresh batteries,” radios, canned goods, matches or lighters and water. It also advised people to make sure their cell phones were charged, the release said.

Jason Bond of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Salem District office said trucks were prepared to deal with the conditions. With the expected snow preceded by days of rain, though, it has created another problem.

“One of the issues is whether we do pretreatment or not,” he said. Usually, roads are treated with brine, a saltwater solution that prevents ice and snow from bonding to road surfaces so they can be more easily plowed.

“In this case, we’re not going to do that because the rain will wash it off,” Bond said.

The bigger concern is the timing of the snowfall, he said. With the possibility of snow hitting in the afternoon, it could create traffic issues with people commuting from work or school, so Bond asked those in the area to pay attention to the weather forecast to “make our job easier.”

So far, “we really haven’t had a significant districtwide snow event yet” this season, he said. The Salem District’s area, which includes Henry and Patrick counties, mostly has seen snowfall in western areas such as Smyth, Washington and Grayson counties, he said.

“If we do see something, the temperatures will be critical,” Bond said. “When cold air hits the moisture” in the air and on the ground, the combination “could make a big difference of how much snow we get,” he said.


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