Wicked cold

You know it's a rough winter when a meteorologist — someone who dedicates their life to the weather — doesn't want to be outside.
Marie Havenga
Jan 8, 2014

Evan Webb, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Grand Rapids, ran out of milk Tuesday morning. He said he isn't going to stop at the grocery store in bad weather conditions to replace it.

“I will probably just do without,” he said. “For me, personally, with as cold as it is and with all the snow, I would just as soon go straight home from work and not stop anywhere.”

Is Webb's avoidance of the grocery store an indication of what's been going on with other shoppers during this snowy season?

Although final numbers aren't in, the storms that pounded the Midwest and Northeast last month may have lopped 1 percent off retailers' fourth-quarter sales, Citigroup analysis indicates. That is typically the biggest selling season for retailers because of the holidays.

Joy Gaasch, president of the local Chamber of Commerce, said it's been a “mixed bag” for local retailers, who are enduring the 10th coldest start to a new year in history.

Snowfall this season, as of Tuesday, is more than 18 inches above normal – and 4 more feet of snow has fallen on Grand Haven compared to this time last year. That makes for a chilly retail climate.

“I think it's a challenge because we've had mild winters for the last couple of years,” Gaasch said. “Monday and Tuesday, you really didn't have a lot of people moving around because it was so cold. Once people become acclimated to the weather again, it will be business as usual.”

Downtown Grand Haven merchants have a melting advantage. When streets are snow-covered and slick, the black asphalt and heated sidewalks roll out like a welcome mat where the heating elements begin.

“I'm sure that helps keeping people moving around down here,” Coffee Grounds owner Robert Walwood said. “Business has been pretty much normal this winter, except for Monday. That was probably the only day where people were not out and about.”

Business at the Coffee Grounds was down more than 30 percent on Monday — a day that was the fourth-coldest Jan. 6 in history, with an average temperature of 8 degrees.

“This weather will pass,” Walwood said. “It's part of our Michigan lives.”

To read more of this story, see today's print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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