By Justin Juozapavicius
Frustrated merchants in Oklahoma and Arkansas again struggled Monday to make the best of a cold situation in the aftermath of another winter storm that blew through the Ozarks during the weekend.
Many schools, diners and businesses in the region were closed due to brutal wind chills and the several inches of snow that had piled on an already treacherous layer of ice. Forecasters in Oklahoma said wind chill values of minus 5 degrees to 15 degrees below zero would be widespread in Oklahoma during the day. And highway officials in Arkansas cautioned that a large swath of treacherous, icy roadways in the northwestern part of that state made for dangerous driving conditions.
The slick roads already had been blamed for at least two traffic deaths over the weekend after several layers of sleet and freezing rain pelted several parts of Oklahoma.
In Tulsa, the familiar sound of tires spinning in place could be heard throughout downtown, where some streets were still covered in several inches of dirty snow.
The storm system that pummeled Arkansas and Oklahoma over the weekend dumped more precipitation as it moved east, snarling traffic and closing schools and offices.
For many business owners in this region — even the ones used to the revolving-door of winter weather that has wreaked havoc on much of the U.S. — the weekend’s storm made them pine for warmer climes.
Bob Garrett, an Oklahoma City-area lawn care worker who treats properties with weed-control chemicals, said Oklahoma’s nasty streak of weather has allowed him only a handful of days since mid-January to do his work, leading to a sizeable backlog of customers.
“This time of year, everybody thinks they’ve got the only lawn in town, and they’re all wanting service,” Garrett lamented Monday.
And Tim Edwards, who runs a catering company in Tulsa and already had one cancellation Monday morning due to the weather, was prepping food for the lunch crowd.
“I have to work no matter what,” he said.
In Huntsville, Ark., employees at Madison Coffee House & Gifts described the scene as “a ghost town,” because there had been only one customer in the shop that’s known for brisk business on most days.
“It’s 9 degrees right now, and everyone here lives on a dirt road, so the whole town will be shut down,” said manager Laura Reynolds in a brief phone interview.
Mary Ware, the owner of the Old South Restaurant in Russellville, Ark., had to shut down the popular cafe early Sunday when the storm rolled in and will probably do so again Monday because of reduced clientele and inability of some of her staff to make it into work because of the snowfall.
Ware estimated that about 60 customers came in Monday, compared with 150 on a usual day. She was preparing to throw in the towel Monday afternoon.
“You can’t stop Mother Nature,” Ware said.