Rain's a blight for some businesses, a blessing for others

Jul. 05, 2013 @ 03:43 PM

Somebody in Caldwell County has been praying for rain.

But it wasn’t the owners of the county’s most tourism-dependent businesses. Many of them, especially those who depend on outdoor activities like camping to fill their coffers, said the recent storms and heavy rains have been a tough storm to weather.

At Brown Mountain Beach Resort on Wilson Creek, pre-booked cottage rentals have kept things moving financially, owner Ron McDaniel said. Rentals of RV spaces have stayed steady too, but tent spaces have dropped off completely.

“Where it bothers us is on the camping,” McDaniel said. “There is none. We’re very fortunate to be where we are, but it’s hurt.”

But McDaniel said Brown Mountain had suffered less than other businesses along Wilson Creek.

About 10 miles away from the resort, heavy rains on Thursday forced the U.S. Forest Service to evacuate Mortimer Campground. The facility – which rents RV and tent spaces for $10 a night – wasn’t damaged but will remain closed through the weekend, District Ranger Nick Larson said.

The Wilson Creek Visitor Center still saw about 75 visitors on Thursday, but that’s about half the number of people who would stop in on a typical Independence Day, said Glynis James, who operates the center.  

Businesses away from the creek have felt the pinch as well. Tim Haas, co-owner of 1841 Café in Lenoir, said he has either closed early or closed entirely several times since the rain started pouring. On one occasion, closing became a necessity when the power went out just between lunch and dinner.

“It’s hurt us tremendously,” Haas said. “For sure.”

The monthly Lenoir Cruise-In, typically a boon for downtown businesses, is scheduled for Saturday. But Haas said he expects that to be slower than usual, too, if the rain keeps falling – as it is forecast to do.

At the Lenoir Golf Course, the week of Independence Day is typically one of the year’s busiest, head golf professional Eric Holder said. But this year, the course was open only Wednesday and Thursday due to wet conditions and flooding. Holder wasn’t sure on Friday afternoon whether the course would reopen Saturday.

“Golf is always centered around the weather,” Holder said. “When the weather’s good, business is good – or great. When the weather’s bad, it suffers.”

It’s not just brick-and-mortar businesses that have suffered as the rain keeps falling. Heavy rains can be tough on farmers, too, making it hard to plant or harvest and causing some damage to crops.

Too much rain can fill fields with still water, interfering with the harvesting of wheat and other crops, or with the planting of in-season crops like soybeans, Caldwell County Extension Director Seth Nagy said.

Heavy rains can also cause fruit rot, mold and plant disease. And continued rainfall can lead to soil fertility problems, Nagy said. Essentially, the water washes plant nutrients out of the soil, leading to deficient crops.

Farmers this year have seen small grains like wheat, barley and oats short on sulfur, and corn short on magnesium, Nagy said.

All that can hurt farmers economically, Nagy said.

“If you can’t harvest it, you can’t sell it,” Nagy said. “So the economic impacts are fairly large. They’re significant.”

For some, though, the heavy rains have been a boon.

Kelly Misenheimer, the general manager at Sagebrush in Lenoir, said the rainy weather helped bring in “a lot more traffic” than the restaurant would typically see on the Fourth of July.

And Deborah Safriet, the guest services supervisor at Bo’s Family Entertainment, said the rain has brought in families who otherwise would’ve been outdoors.

“They can’t be at the lake or the pond or the pool or outdoors in the park,” Safriet said. “We’ve got a nice, big roof over our heads. It’s been good for us.”

But at most businesses, the owners are just hoping the weather clears soon.

“We’re just going to have to ride it out,” said McDaniel, the Brown Mountain Beach Resort owner. “This county didn’t need it, and we didn’t need it, but what can you do? Just grit your teeth and move on.”