Working in the deep freeze
Many in the area braved the frigid temperatures to do their jobs
Dennis Roosa, of Webster City, was among the first people to greet the polar vortex Wednesday morning with its minus 20 something temperatures and near minus 50 wind chills.
He starts his day around midnight when he picks up bundles of The Messenger and The Daily Freeman-Journal at the print plant in Webster City to deliver to readers in Webster City.
His route is well over 100 customers.
“It was pretty cold,” he said. “I wore a mask so I didn’t have to breathe cold air.”
Roosa drives his route then walks up to his customers homes with the papers. He said he didn’t have trouble with visibility which was an issue in open rural areas.
He was glad when it was over though.
“I crawled into bed.” he said.
Rex and Deb Evans, of Webster City, also deliver both papers.
“We tag team it.” he said.
They, too, took precautions.
“We bundled up a little more and slowed down a bit.” he said.
Besides those who bring the news to peoples door steps, there are others who find themselves outside in the frigid temperatures to do their job.
Webster County Sheriff’s Deputy April Murray is one of those.
She could find herself in a warm squad car one minute and then outside in a wide open windy area the next minute.
She came to work prepared.
“A lot of layers.” she said. “Alaska thermal, I just layer up and try not to be outside very long.”
There’s some help in the squad, too.
“I have a big thermos of coffee.” she said.
She said that doing a job that might involve being outside on the coldest day in Iowa in over two decades is part of the job.
“It’s part of the package.” she said. “You find the best way to adapt. Appropriate clothing and mindset.”
While mail carriers got to stay inside in the warmth Wednesday after the U.S. Postal Service canceled delivery in Iowa and several other states, that’s not an option for firefighters and emergency medical workers.
Capt. Jason Vandi, with the Fort Dodge Fire Department, said they were prepared ahead of time.
“Our plans for this started early in the week.” he said. “We told everyone to dress appropriately and bring extra garments to work.”
If the department did have to respond to a major incident in the cold, extra help would be summoned immediately.
“If we do have a fire,” he said. “We’re going to call back two tours. We want as many as possible to rotate crews.”
The concept is that with more people, each firefighter will have to spend less time in the cold.
The extreme cold can also cause equipment problems, He said the firefighters air pack regulators can freeze up among other things. They’ve already added anti-gel additives in the truck’s diesel tanks.
“We’re at the mercy of our apparatus functioning properly.” he said. “Everything works slower, even water in a hose. Getting water out of a hydrant is a gamble.”
The water used on a fire also adds a hazard as it turns to smooth ice. It can easily be slipped on.
The firefighters take it in stride.
“It’s just another day for us.” Vandi said. “It doesn’t matter what the weather is.”
It also gives the crew a chance to train inside. On Wednesday, on-duty shift was taking an EMT class to update their airway management skills.
The only one in the fire station that wasn’t doing anything was Ember, the department’s new Dalmation. She was in her kennel enjoying a nice long cozy nap.
Farmers don’t get a break in the winter either.
J.B. Bunda, of Moorland, has cattle at two locations near Moorland.
He makes sure they have what they need to keep warm. The stock is given fresh corn stalk bedding every day, plenty of feed and fresh water and most importantly, shelter from the wind.
“Cattle are pretty tough.” he said. “If they have clean bedding and can get out of the wind they can tolerate the cold.”
Part of his daily care of the stock includes making sure the water didn’t freeze up. Some of his stock is on land that includes a creek that they drink from.
“I have to make sure the creek has open water.” he said. “Surprisingly, it’s still open.”
Cattle also have a good instinct for finding areas without wind on open land. He said that when it’s blowing, they move to areas where the hills on his land protect them from the wind.
“As long as they’re out of the wind, the temperature is not a problem.” he said.
He too, follows sound advice to keep himself warm.
“Layers.” he said. “And really good gloves.”
He also follows one final bit of good advice.
“Stay out of the wind.” he said.