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Snow helps some Peninsula businesses but hurts others

Peninsula contractors were busy around the clock removing snow from commercial and residential lots and driveways while some restaurants with nearby employees found a way to stay open.

Several lawn service businesses sprung into action after the snowfall. Joanne Prassas of Coastal Lawn Service Inc. in the Williamsurg area said midday Friday the business's 10 snow removal workers had been working around the clock since Wednesday night for commercial clients. The business has two plows and a tractor, but Prassas said even her suppliers were running out of ice melt and she had to buy more.

Coastal Lawn completes its committed contract work first and then picks up additional work, she said.

"I like snow — it's profitable but it's hard work."

Hampton-based Tidewater Express's tow trucks recovered at least 76 trucks and heavy vehicles, primarily tractor-trailer trucks and tractors, from 6 p.m. Wednesday through 4 a.m. Friday, said company dispatcher Amy McDaniel. And the tow truck drivers helped out other vehicles along or in the way, she said.

Often, Tidewater Express would need to use equipment to clear snow out of the way to be able to pull trucks to safety, she said. Most of the calls came from South Hampton Roads.

McDaniel of Isle of Wight said she and her stepdaughter Chelsea McDaniel manned four cell phones to make sure drivers got to where they needed to go.

"My reaction to snow is it's very pretty to look at but until you ever have to experience the work side of it, you're like you never want to see snow again," McDaniel said.

Sentara hospitals and emergency centers started preparing for the storm at the beginning of the week and continued around-the-clock services the entire week, said Mark Beck, vice president and nurse executive at Sentara CarePlex Hospital in Hampton. He’s been the on-call administrator all week. To make sure physicians and staff members were able to show up to work, the CarePlex housed at least 60 people in-house Wednesday night, and about 30 Thursday night, he said.

“We can’t close the hospital, and from a patient safety standpoint, we have to have people show up for their shifts,” he said. He anticipated a spike in emergency room patients Friday after the roads became clear and people started shoveling and going outside, making them more prone to injury.

Many restaurants in the region closed Thursday, and a few remained closed Friday, but some with staff who lived nearby were open.

El Diablo Loco in Phoebus was open for lunch Thursday because employees lived nearby, but closed early because of icy conditions, said co-owner Gary McIntyre. An owner of the Barking Dog in Poquoson also picked up employees in a four-wheel drive vehicle and took them to work, where the restaurant was busy as usual for lunch, McIntyre said, and Kismet Bistro at 99 Main in Newport News opened for dinner.

The snow is a nuisance for restaurants as fewer people go out to eat and perishable supply needs to be managed, he said. Business is slower with snowfall and that also hurts employees who might be hourly or rely on tips, he said.

Employees being able to get safely to work determines whether the restaurants can open, McIntyee said. The restaurants will be open this weekend, he said.

Marker 20 in downtown Hampton didn't close because of snow and rarely closes, as it's a meeting place, said owner Carlyle Bland. He said the restaurant stayed open during Hurricane Isabel with generators.

The only problem with snow is the supply trucks don't like it, he said, adding he had to make a few trips to BJ's Wholesale Club in Hampton.

Packed snow also caused Marker's alarm to go off at 4 a.m. Thursday, waking nearby Bland who shoveled snow there throughout the day. His other downtown Hampton restaurants, Brown Chicken Brown Cow and Venture Kitchen & Bar closed Thursday and Friday, but will be open this weekend.

"We'll get all the downtown denizens because they're not going to be traveling so much," Bland said. "They'll go stir crazy."

Daily Press staff writers Jane Hammond, Pete Dujardin, Natalie Joseph, Reema Amin, Lisa Vernon Sparks, Mark St. John Erickson and Tara Bozick contributed to this report.

Mishkin can be reached by phone at 757-641-6669. Follow her on Twitter at @KateMishkin.

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