Charlotte businesses brace for winter storm

Businessess are bracing for a winter storm later Monday afternoon that could bring almost half an inch of ice to Mecklenburg County, threatening to down power lines, freeze pipes and create hazardous road conditions.

Wintery precipitation will begin in Charlotte as snow or a “snow and sleet mix,” meteorologists said, and transition to sleet and freezing rain Monday evening. As a result, a winter storm warning for the whole metro area is in effect until 7 a.m. Tuesday.

Area companies already anticipate high demand for products and services to deal with the ice, which can often be more dangerous than snow, and advise customers to plan ahead.

Kearns Little, a co-owner of Little Hardware on South Mint Street, said the flow of customers Monday since the store’s 7 a.m. opening has been “brisk.” He said items quick to sell will include salt, snow shovels, kerosene heaters and sleds.

“If you do not have to go out when it’s icy, don’t. It’s safer to stay at home. Ice will bring down trees, which will bring down power lines,” Little said. “Think ahead about keeping warm. It’s been below freezing since yesterday and pipes are going to start freezing up.

At Hipps Hardware on Hovis Road, store manager Calvin Wyatt said he anticipates lots of customers will be looking for salt and potassium chloride to melt the ice on sidewalks, driveways and roads.

“We probably will have a run on it. Once word gets out (the storm) is coming, that’s when (customers) start coming,” Wyatt said.

Similarly, Terrance Bynes, the assistant store manager of Lowe’s Home Improvement on Iverson Way, said ice melt and sand will be in high demand Monday, as will snow and ice scrapers for cars.

Meteorologists say ice accumulation could also bring down trees and power lines, resulting in possible power outages.

Tim Young of Tim Young Tree Services said there’s not a lot of preparation his team can do ahead of the storm, but they will be ready to put in extra hours if necessary.

“In storm weather, we work late to accommodate the public. Even though we do have quite a few tree services in town, it does overload our capacity real quick,” Young said. “This type of work is very dangerous – you have to go a certain speed to get it done right.”

For other businesses, the work might get busier after the storm Tuesday, as customers slog through pockets of snow and hit spots of black ice on their way to work.

That’s the case for Rescue Tow Truck, said JT Simpson, the company’s owner and manager.

“Normally when storms come, a lot of people do not drive. They stay at home,” Simpson said. “The real busy time is after the storm when people venture out and they slide out of their driveway, get stuck in a ditch, et cetera.”