Cold temps keep some businesses hopping
The colder-than-normal temperatures so far this month have been keeping businesses hopping — from retail to heating contractors to tow truck operators.
And there doesn't appear to be a whole lot of relief in sight.
"More cold temperatures are coming this weekend," said Bill Barrett, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Forks.
"Today is the mildest day of the next three or four days," he said Thursday. "Then it will be cold again this weekend."
The pattern has been about two mild days for every three or four chilly days, and that looks to continue, with a brief warm-up forecast for next week, and then colder Arctic temperatures on their way for the following weekend.
"Cold weather, sadly enough, is a big boost for our business," said Kathy Michaelson of Modern Plumbing and Heating.
It isn't so much the plumbing side of the business, although they deal with the occasional frozen pipe. It's the heating side that keeps things hopping, she said.
"There's a whole lot of furnace replacement and heating service work," she said. "We do commercial as well as residential (work), and there's various issues that cold weather brings — from restaurant kitchen ventilation hoods to rooftop ventilation units to bathroom ventilation fans."
Both cold and snow can cause problems, she said.
"We're extremely busy," she said, "but we're here to take care of folks, that's what we're here for."
Cold weather gear has been flying off the shelves at local retailers.
"Everything from heaters to portable heaters to construction heaters," said Jason Swangstue, store manager of L&M Fleet in Detroit Lakes.
Shoppers have also been stocking up on cold weather outerwear.
"Gloves, hats, jackets, boots, everything," he said. Snow shovels were in short supply last week, but have since been restocked, he said.
The automotive department has been busy, as has the small engine sales and repair department.
"We sold out of snowblowers for part of one day," Swangstue said. "We sold out on Sunday afternoon, but late Sunday night we got more in. There are still some availability issues with certain brands."
In general, a cold, snowy, early winter is good for business.
"It's the nature of the beast," said Swangstue. "We like it in retail when there's cold weather, and we like it when there's snow."
For professional dog-walker Georgia Nagel, who owns Georgia, the Pet Sitter, cold temperatures come with their own set of challenges.
"Right off the bat, I dress totally differently," she said. "Boots, long underwear, snowpants, a heated vest, and a hat and gloves — I can withstand the weather more than they can," she said of her canine charges.
Small short-haired dogs like terriers and pugs can be especially sensitive to the cold, she said.
When its 20 or 25 degrees below, "I have to take the dogs out in shifts," she said. "Not just the little dogs, the big dogs, too. I'll let them out and they'll go No. 1, I bring them back inside to warm up, and then let them out again and they go No. 2. Sometimes I have to let them out a third time."
Even dogs built for outdoor weather need shelter, food and fresh water — don't plan on just having them eat snow, they can't eat enough to stay hydrated, she said. Get a heated water bowl and keep an eye on it, she said.
"I take care of horses, too," she said. "They have heated water, but I had to take a mallet and knock the ice off it before they could drink."
She also tries to protect the dogs she walks from excessive sidewalk salt, which can get into the pads of their feet and irritate the bottom of their paws.
She doesn't mess with dog booties or sweaters unless they're used to them. "If it's really cold, I carry the little dogs out, set them down, let them do their things, and carry them back in."
Of course, some long-haired, furry-pawed dogs, like Pomeranians, are winter-ready and in no hurry to come back inside.
"They love to sit outside on the snowbank. I'll tell them 'we have to go in now,' but they just want to stay out and play."
Not surprisingly, the towing business heats up a lot when it gets extremely cold.
"Things have picked up big time," said Lakes Country Towing owner Mike Smith. "In the cold the cars don't start, and in the snow they have accidents or go in the ditch ... If it's gonna break, it's gonna break in this cold. If there's a weak spot, it's going to break in this cold."
There doesn't appear to be any relief from the cold weather on the horizon, said Barrett, the meteorologist.
It doesn't look like there will necessarily be a warm-up at the end of the month, as the tea leaves had seemed to indicate earlier.
"Now the signals are in transition," he said.
"But there are no big storms on the horizon — you can tell them that, anyway," he said.
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