C-Stores Cope With C-C-C-Cold

"Polar vortex" freezes much of nation; retailers keep gas, hot coffee flowing

Greg Lindenberg, Editor, CSP

Mitch Morrison, Vice President of Retailer Relations

Polar Vortex

CHICAGO -- The convenience and fueling industry was on the frigid front line once again with hot coffee and gasoline for shivering motorists and intrepid snowplow drivers as the brutal polar air that has made the Midwest shiver over the past few days spread to the East and the South on Tuesday, shattering temperature records.

Authorities reported at least 21 cold-related deaths since Sunday, including seven in Illinois and six in Indiana, said the Associated Press.

The big chill started in the Midwest over the weekend, caused by a kink in the "polar vortex," the winds that circulate around the North Pole. By Tuesday, the icy air covered about half the country. The deep freeze dragged on in the Midwest as well, with the thermometer reaching minus 12 overnight in Chicago and 14 below in St. Louis.

Authorities closed many schools across the eastern half of the United States, and many businesses either closed or sent their employees home early. The weather affected commutes and travel--whether by plane, train or automobile--and airlines canceled more than 2,000 U.S. flights, bringing the four-day total to more than 11,000. The Lower 48 states, when averaged out, reached a low of 13.8 degrees Fahrenheit overnight Monday, said AP, citing calculations by Ryan Maue of Weather Bell Analytics. The polar vortex's icy blast affected an estimated 190 million people in the Unites States.

"The extreme cold hurts us more than snow because if schools and businesses are closed we lose food sales and they are our greatest source of margin," Fran Duskiewicz, senior executive vice president at Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes, Canastota, N.Y., told CSP Daily News." On the flip side, gallons go through the roof as people keep tanks constantly topped off. Here in [Central New York], we are not usually as bothered by extreme winter weather as other places because it's business as usual around here; however, while snow generates sales for us, extreme cold just keeps people inside."