As the ice melts, some DFW businesses heat up

12/10/2013 5:29 PM

12/10/2013 10:19 PM

Many of the roads may still be a little slippery in spots, covered in a filthy layer of sand and salt.

But Mark Hand, manager of the Red Carpet car wash in west Fort Worth, knows what’s coming.

“It will be ridiculous,” Hand said. “We’re going to get slammed.”

As the sun broke out and temperatures climbed above freezing, a steady stream of vehicles at car washes will be another sign that life is returning to normal after a few days of an ice-induced stranglehold on North Texas.

Many students were back in classrooms Tuesday, planes were taking off and landing, offices buzzed with employees and restaurants were busy with lunch-time crowds.

At the car wash, Hand offered this bit of advice: “You won’t be able to get in here. Just like driving on the ice, you will need to bring your patience with you.”

While road conditions improved dramatically across the region, there were still trouble spots where isolated patches of ice on some bridges slowed traffic. Texas Department of Transportation crews spent another day working on area roads and “a lot of progress was made,” said TxDOT spokesman Val Lopez. But with temperatures falling below freezing again Tuesday, there could again be some problems on overpasses Wednesday morning.

“The worst is over but it wouldn’t surprise me if we had to address a few issues,” Lopez said.

At Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, about 100 flights were canceled Tuesday morning but operations had returned to normal by Tuesday afternoon. But the same storm that bedeviled DFW was causing cancellations on the East Coast.

DFW Airport spokesman David Magana said anyone with a flight to the Northeast should check with their airline before heading to the airport.

“It’s a national storm,” Magana said. “We were just the leading edge of it.”

Lots of vehicles damaged

The aftermath of the storm wasn’t just felt at car washes; other businesses have been the unintended beneficiaries of the ice storm’s wrath.

Auto repair businesses, body shops and wrecker services have all been busy as a number of vehicles that were driven on the icy and rough roads sustained damage. While many of the vehicles were involved in small fender-benders, others had their tires and wheels dinged.

“We’ve seen a lot of busted wheels, a lot of flat tires,” said George Salinas, owner of G&M Tire in Fort Worth. “Everybody should have just stayed home like they told you to do.”

But Salinas said one TCU student found her car damaged in some sort of chain-reaction accident while she was at a house party.

“The tow-truck driver said he had to separate the cars to find the one he was supposed to tow,” Salinas said. “They were all in some sort of circle — eight or nine cars — in the middle of Stadium Drive.”

During the height of the storm, towing companies couldn’t keep up with the demand as stranded 18-wheelers clogged major highways.

“We were taking so many calls, we were turning them down,” said Scott Moody, manager of Denny’s Towing in Arlington.

Some of the damage to vehicles was serious enough that some cars had to go auto body shops for repairs. At Perfection Auto Body in Haltom City, some vehicles were already in the shop and others were scheduling repairs in the coming days.

“There’s a lot of damage to fenders, to wheels and the suspension systems,” said J.D. Kaempf, the store manager. “It’s the kind of thing where the car slid out of control and hit the guardrail.”

But perhaps the most serious storm damage was to windshields cracked from the cold or from flying chunks of ice.

“It isn’t one thing,” said Mike Linney of Auto Glass Stop in Fort Worth. “When ice flies off the top of a vehicle, it flies into their car and cracks their windshield. Or when you’re cleaning off your windshield and turn up the heat on the defroster real fast, that can crack it. And throwing hot water on a frozen windshield is never a good idea.”

Linney also advises drivers to watch where they leave their car. Don’t park underneath trees or near tall buildings where ice can fall and smash into their cars as has been seen in numerous YouTube videos that were posted over the weekend of falling ice in Plano.

Plumbers were busy

The weather problems weren’t limited to automobiles.

Calls to some area plumbers leaped, said Mark McGaughy, owner of Mr. Rooter Plumbing in Fort Worth and Dallas.

“We had a substantial increase in calls, because other plumbers couldn’t operate,” McGaughy said. “Even we had to limit response to calls where homes were being damaged or there was a sanitary issue.”

The ice was so bad Saturday, McGaughy said, that when his plumbers found major roads passable, they were thwarted once they got to residential areas.

“The roads would be filled with cars that were stalled at the curbs,” McGaughy said. “Our trucks couldn’t fit between them.”

Master Repair Plumbing didn’t get many broken pipe calls, and company spokeswoman Carol Talbot said she thinks people learned a lesson during the 2011 freeze.

“I think people are wrapping their pipes and doing better preparation,” Talbot said. “But I’m sure we’ll get quite a few calls after it thaws. A lot of people don’t realize they have a break until then.”

The ice storm wasn’t as hard on landscapes as the infamous Super Bowl XLV storm, said David Felker, owner of Ideal Landscape Services in Fort Worth.

After the thaw is when James Samudio, owner of Elizabeth Anna’s Old World Garden expects the broken limb and yard clean-up calls, in addition to irrigation system leaks.

But so far there has been “no increase in calls at all,” Samudio said.

Pizza deliveries up

One of the most in demand businesses during the storm was for having food delivered during the storm. Most restaurants didn’t try to brave the icy roads but there were exceptions.

At Campisi’s in west Fort Worth, drivers delivered not only pizza but the entire menu to residences.

“None of our vehicles had any fender-benders I’m proud to say,” said Peter Fraute, manager of the Fort Worth Campisi’s. “But we did have a couple of challenges where the houses were uphill and our drivers couldn’t drive up to them. In those cases, they just parked and walked up the hill to deliver the food to them.”

While most of the deliveries were on the west side of Fort Worth, some went a little further. Pizzas were taken to the post office and as far away as Aledo.

“They were some of our most valued customers so we said ‘Why not?’” Fraute said.

At the Keller i Fratelli restaurant, drivers attemped to deliver pizzas throughout the weekend, but they faced challenges.

On Saturday, they only had one delivery driver and there were some neighborhoods in the Alliance cooridor of Fort Worth that the drivers couldn’t reach.

“At a certain point, we had tell residents that our cars were going backwards and we couldn’t get to them,” said Paul Watrous, owner of Keller pizza restaurant.

Watrous, who lives in Irving, stayed in the Keller area Thursday through Sunday to guarantee he could reach his restaurant.

“This was something like I have never seen,” Watrous said. “You had water up to curbs that just froze. In some places, you just couldn’t get any traction.”

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