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Fredericksburg-area businesses help customers prepare for another wintry blast
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Fredericksburg-area businesses help customers prepare for another wintry blast

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mr. b's small engine repair

Keith, co-owner Mr. B’s Small Engine Repair, works on a generator in preparation for this weekends snow storm in Stafford on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022.

Business owners still recovering from the Jan. 3 winter storm that dumped about a foot of snow across the region are finding themselves under pressure and low on supplies as residents prepare for another possible blast of frozen precipitation this weekend.

“Today it feels like everyone is almost certain this next one is coming,” said Jack Donohoe, manager of Morton’s Power Equipment in the Four Mile Fork area of Spotsylvania County. “Just today, I had a few leftover generators that I got in late last week and those were gone within a few hours this morning.”

Almost two weeks ago, snow fell across much of the region at a 3-inch-per-hour rate, closing roads and leaving hundreds of helpless motorists stranded along the interstate or rural roads. The heavy, wet snow also downed scores of trees and power lines, leaving thousands of residents without power. Some waited several days in below-freezing temperatures for power to be restored.

Meteorologist Brian Lasorsa of the National Weather Service in Sterling said weather data shows an increasing likelihood for another winter storm in the Fredericksburg area beginning late Sunday. Lasorsa said a system hitting the Pacific Northwest coast Thursday was expected to bring more cold air eastward across the U.S., eventually mixing with another system coming from the south.

The two could create a low pressure system he says will strengthen over the southern plains and the Gulf Coast states by Saturday before tracking up the Atlantic coast late Sunday. Lasorsa said if the storm tracks south, close to the coast, it could bring additional snow to the still-recovering Fredericksburg region.

“That’ll keep you in a colder and snowier solution, which will bring significant and substantial snow accumulation into the Fredericksburg area,” Lasorsa said.

If the system remains farther west, close to the mountains, Lasorsa said the Fredericksburg region could see some snow, but the heaviest precipitation would happen in the Blue Ridge mountains. Lasorsa said he expects to see a clearer and more accurate path for the storm by Friday afternoon.

Whatever route the storm eventually takes, area residents don’t seem to be taking any chances, as stores have seen supplies depleted and area repair shops stayed busy getting emergency home gear ready for anxious customers.

“We have about 50 generators in right now and [customers] are concerned about losing power,” said Keith Karlstromer, co-owner of Mr. B’s Small Engine Repair in North Stafford. “People are still cleaning up debris from the last storm and that’s probably going to be going on for a minimum of 30 days.”

Karlstromer said his employees have been working frantically doing tune-ups and repairs on generators, snow blowers and chainsaws.

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“We’re managing to keep up, but it’s a little overwhelming,” Karlstromer said. “I would normally be off [Friday], but I’ll be on my way to Richmond to pick up chains and parts, bringing them up then working the rest of the day.”

Karlstromer said chainsaws are an extremely sought-after item, especially after the last big storm. And the chain used on chainsaws is also getting hard to find, while the prices on virtually all small engine parts have risen more than 40 percent within the last three months, he said.

“There are shortages across the board and there were shortages even before this.” Karlstromer said. “I used to order from one place. Now I have to call four.”

Donohoe said quantities of new saws were limited even before the early January blizzard due to supply chain issues caused by the COVID pandemic, and he quickly sells every one he gets.

Dustin Timmons, manager of Spotsylvania’s Gander RV, said although sales are steady and his inventory of portable generators is good at his store on Plank Road, he said a shortage of adapter plugs that homeowners use to connect the generators to their home electrical systems took him by surprise.

“You don’t sell a lot of that until there’s an event like this,” Timmons said. “It’s not something you expect, and you run short quick and you try to replenish.”

Timmons said one item he wasn’t able to replenish by mid-week was propane. He said even before most homes in the region had power restored last week, propane was already a scarce commodity throughout much of the region.

“I’m out of propane,” Timmons said. “People are using it to run their heaters or camp stoves, those kinds of things.”

Karlstromer said many generators undergoing repairs in his shop failed to start and run during the earlier winter storm this month due to the use of ethanol fuel in the units, which is a common blend of fuel that eventually attracts and holds water.

Pre-packaged, non-ethanol fuel is available in stores that specialize in selling and repairing small engines. It is also sold at a limited number of gas stations in the region.

For good generator health, Karlstromer recommends filling the unit’s fuel tank with non-ethanol fuel and running it for 10 minutes or so every 30 days, checking the engine oil level and thoroughly inspecting the unit. Karlstromer said those basic checks are even more critical in the few days left before a winter storm is anticipated.

“Start your equipment. Don’t wait until the last minute,” Karlstromer said.

James Scott Baron: 540/374-5438

jbaron@freelancestar.com

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I spent 23 years in the Navy in media relations and as a reporter. Prior to coming to The Free Lance-Star in 2019, I volunteered with a local non-profit that helps formerly incarcerated people transition back into society. I'm also an avid motorcyclist.

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