Snow Business

Blizzard cripples transportation across much of nation; boon or bust for industry

ARCADIA, Okla. -- This tweet on Wednesday from POPS_66, with gas station/soda emporium Pops 66 in Arcadia, Okla., may or may not sum up the experience of every retailer in the path of the major blizzard that cut a path across the county's midsection from the Southwest to the Northeast this week: "OK, I give up. 7 people since 6 am. We're shutting it down. Plan for regular hours tomorrow, hope to see you then." On Thursday, POPS_66 tweeted, "We're open today (store & restaurant), more cars on the road than yesterday. Hope the roads keep improving."

But some convenience [image-nocss] stores in affected areas either closed or did not open, or saw business drop to near zero; other business, such as some truckstops, became oases for motorists and truckers stranded on closed and impassable interstate highways.
There were also several reports of gas station canopies collapsing from the weight of the snow. Incidents were reported at a CITGO station in Springfield, Mass., a Shell in Worcester, Mass., a Getty in Cheshire, Conn., a Gulf in Nanuet, N.Y., a Shell in Quincy, Ill., a Shell in Meriden, Conn., a Gulf in New Canaan, Conn., among other locations.

Ruddie's Quik Stop, a convenience store in El Reno, Okla., ran out of milk, eggs and bread Tuesday, owner Ruddie Leathers told USA Today. He wasn't sure when resupplies would be able to get through. "Usually we think 6 inches is a terrible storm," he said. "This is the kind of excitement I don't need."

At the QuikTrip convenience store in Broken Arrow, Okla., a couple of customers came in Tuesday because they love QuikTrip coffee, manager Greg Holt said. "Most," he told The Oklahoman, "were customers we see every morning. They just followed the same routine; it just took them a little longer."

Holt said his store also sold a lot of hot food--hot dogs, taquitos, and chicken and cheese rollers.
Meanwhile, the eight Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores in greater Oklahoma City exceeded average sales volumes Tuesday, spokesperson Jenny Love Meyer told the newspaper. "We had lots more business with Godfather's Pizza and Subway," she said. "Some truck drivers were stranded, so they were just there, and locals would come in and order eight medium pizzas to take back to their co-workers."

(Pictured: Casey's General Stores in Atkinson, Ill.)The Love's on Interstate 35 had numerous beer and cigarette sales, Meyer added. For a time, she said, it was the only interstate not closed by the highway patrol.

Separately, National Public Radio talked to Terri Brackney and Greg Stratton, who work at the Pilot Flying J Travel Plaza in Warrenton, Mo., and were stranded there. Interstate 70, through central and eastern Missouri, was closed down for a while because of snow and ice. The closure stranded many motorists and workers along the highway. The road was impassible because of blowing snow, sheets of ice and stranded cars turned this way and that. The interstate reopened earlier this morning, but at midday, the state transportation department was advising motorists to travel only if necessary.

NPR: Help paint a picture for us. What was the scene like there at the Flying J when motorists started pouring in? It sounds like the parking lot was an absolute zoo.
BRACKNEY: It was. Snow was just coming down so hard and so fast that--and drifting so bad, it was just encasing the trucks and their trailers. And they just could not go anywhere.NPR: Encasing the trucks? Trucks are pretty big.
BRACKNEY: Yeah. Well, it was pretty high.
STRATTON: I had trucks coming in that were literally just sheets of ice pulling in. They had, you know, one-foot icicles hanging off of their mirrors, having to get out and just shovel the front of the doors just so people could get in from the snowdrifts blowing up against the doors.... It was just an absolute mess.NPR: You also have a convenience store there, right?
BRACKNEY: That's correct.NPR: And what were people buying?
STRATTON: Everything. Everything. They were buying everything from additives for their fuel to...TVs and DVDs we have for sale for the truckers so they could have something to watch.... Everything from coffee to soda to snacks to food. I mean, if it was in the store, people were picking it up. We've got flashlights and stuff. A lot of these people weren't prepared for the fact that they were going to have to stop. A lot of these people thought they were going to drive right through it. And it just hit so hard that they had to stop. And some of the truckers actually came unprepared because everything that they expect they get on down the road.NPR: Do you sell those little things that you use to deice a lock? I bet that was a hot item.
BRACKNEY: We sold every can we had in stock. Those were all hot commodities yesterday.NPR: Did people stay in a pretty good mood through all this?
BRACKNEY: Absolutely. Truck drivers are very unique in situations like this.... Their moods are actually good. You know, they all understand it. They all accept it. They know they're stuck here until it's over. You know, they're here for the duration.... They have a good time. They all wanted to share their stories and their experience.NPR: Now, the roads, as we said, are open. And, Greg, I understand that you have special duty. You're the traffic coordinator trying to get people back out on the road. How's that going?
STRATTON: Well, actually, now we're finally got to where the trucks could come in and they can get out as well. I mean, last night, when I was walking the lot, I just did a quick count of how many trucks I saw. I saw about 186 truckers just in our back lot. Terri had told me we can fit 220, and we were full by the end of last night and had trucks lined up on the road. So getting all those people up and going and moving and out was quite a big task.