MELROSE — Bronxites around the Hub braced for the approaching blizzard Friday with hoods up, shelves stocked and salt spread, their preparations whipped into motion by the snow-slinging winds.
As the hail and freezing rain fell Friday morning, customers darted into the diners and discount stores lining E. 149th Street to buy supplies or a hot cup of coffee.
Kanneh Swaliho, an employee at 99¢ Papa, said the foul weather had actually driven more customers than usual into the store.
“Usually when the weather’s bad we don’t get a lot of people,” said Swaliho, 22. “But today we have.”
They went for food mostly, along with cooking supplies, flashlights and batteries and some salt and shovels, he said.
One customer, Norma Martinez, sat her bags on the floor by the store’s exit so she could bundle up before venturing out into the icy rain.
Her bags were filled with eggs, bread, juice and milk — “the necessary stuff of the house.”
“We have to be prepared,” said Martinez, 57.
Farther east along 149th Street, Carol Ann Murrell watched the streets turn slushy and the tree branches quiver from the lobby of her tower in the Moore Houses complex.
The 72-year-old finished most of her grocery shopping Thursday, but ran out Friday morning for some last-minute essentials — milk, potatoes and cigarettes.
She had already charged her cell phone and called her children to check in and knew that, once she retreated to her 20th-floor apartment, she would be ready for whatever came her way.
“I got flashlights up the ying yang,” Murrell said.
She didn’t expect much from the storm — “I think as soon as the snow comes, the rain will come and wash it away” — but wasn’t too worried even if the white stuff were to accumulate.
“The weather doesn’t scare me,” she said, her face buried inside a fur-lined hood.
But others were expecting the worst.
“If the weather is bad, we’ll close early,” said Kim Sim, owner of Medicine Cabinet 2 Pharmacy, who added that one of her suppliers had already canceled their Saturday shipments.
“And tomorrow if it’s bad, we’ll stay closed,” Sim said.
Next door, Kofi Acquah dispensed salt, splashed hot water and slid his shovel to keep the sidewalk clear outside American Family, a home supply store on 149th Street.
Even as hail battered his puffy black jacket and wind whisked his red scarf, Acquah seemed sanguine about the gathering storm as he shoveled the morning's slush.
“This is the season,” he said. “Every 12 months we have to experience this. It’s a part of life.”