Record low temperatures take a toll on local business and community

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By Roger Gavan

— The obvious fact is that when the temperature falls to zero and even well below zero if you add in the wind chill factor, shoppers stay home.

Throw in wind gusts up to 39 mph and that describes last Saturday and Sunday, the first weekend of the New Year. And it took its toll on the local business community.

'It was brutal'"There was a dramatic drop in foot traffic," said Tom Roberts, owner of Ye Olde Warwick Book Shoppe and president of the Merchant Guild. "It was brutal."

Bob Maxwell, co-owner of Style Counsel and Blue fashion shops, agreed.

"It was very quiet," he said. "We're not used to it. And when the temperature rose above 20 degrees this week, it was like spring."

Other Main Street shops, such as Etched in Time Engraving, had similar reports.

"It was pretty dead," said Manager Dawn Kharsand. "And business was unusually slow for a Saturday."

Even the restaurants saw a drop in business on what would normally be a busy Saturday night.

However, John Christison, owner of Yesterdays Restaurant said that although business was a little off, it was worthwhile staying open.

He reported that power outages in the area caused many people to head for a restaurant and that helped make up the difference for those who stayed home.

Yesterdays has been on Main Street for 33 years.

"Even when it snows," he said, "we have many people on our staff who live nearby. They all come in and everyone knows Yesterdays is always open."

Supplies in demandSome businesses, however, saw an increase.

Wadeson's Home Center, a family owned business since 1930, carries the products that people need when the weather is bad.

"We were super busy last weekend," said Craig Wadeson. "and we stayed open beyond our usual closing time."

He reported that supplies are delivered to the store twice each week and the Home Center was well stocked with insulation, sand, plumbing supplies and the like.

"There were many broken water pipes in homes from this freeze and so it was a busy time in our plumbing department."

Paul Leduc, owner of the Warwick Car Wash & Oil Express, which employs gas station attendants instead of requiring the more common self-service at its fuel pumps, reported a big increase in gasoline sales.

"People would rather stay in their warm cars," he said.

Weather's domino effectAccording to Mayor Michael Newhard, the deep freeze of 2018 had lingered far beyond anyone would like.

"These aren't exactly the records I want to see set," he said. "The domino effect of the bitter cold is higher fuel costs, greater fire wood consumption; it even effects the local economy as folks tend not to leave the comfort of their home to shop and go to restaurants."

Keeping roads ice-free, fixing broken pipesIn addition to the impact from the bitter cold on business, there were general problems throughput the town.

"We certainly have had this cold before but just not for such an extended period of time," said Town of Warwick Supervisor Michael Sweeton. "It presents several challenges. Keeping roads ice-free is difficult as the effectiveness of salt is hindered by low temperatures and lack of sun to melt the hard pack.

"Fixing broken pipes, especially at night, is extremely hard and can be dangerous to the safety of crews," Sweeton added. "We also worry about our seniors as well so the members of our Police Department step up their vigilance for those living alone."

Newhard also added that the water department is very busy at this time of year performing emergency shut offs for residents with frozen pipes.

Both Sweeton and Newhard, however, were thankful there were no major water main breaks.

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