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Outdoor workers in DeKalb County cope with cold

Weather provides boost in business for some

DeKalb County Sheriff's Sgt. Van Bomar tags an abandoned truck with a pink ribbon on Route 38 in Malta on Tuesday. Workers whose jobs force them out into the cold say dressing in layers is critical.
DeKalb County Sheriff's Sgt. Van Bomar tags an abandoned truck with a pink ribbon on Route 38 in Malta on Tuesday. Workers whose jobs force them out into the cold say dressing in layers is critical.

DeKALB – DeKalb County Sheriff’s Sgt. Van Bomar was busy over the weekend.

Bomar worked from 11:30 p.m. Friday to 11:30 a.m. Saturday helping cars in ditches and cars stuck in the middle of the road.

It was all in a day’s work for Bomar, who is one of dozens of people in the county who have to work in the cold weather on a daily basis.

Northern Illinois is finally seeing some relief from the sub-zero temperatures that gripped the are for more than two days. A wind chill advisory for DeKalb County expired at noon Tuesday, today’s forecast high is above zero and temperatures are forecast to climb above freezing by the weekend.

The cold weather was part of a polar vortex which has swept much of the country with bone-chilling temperatures dropping as low as minus 19 degrees overnight from Sunday into Monday, said Northern Illinois University meteorologist Gilbert Sebenste.

“It was terrible,” Bomar said as he was out on patrol Tuesday looking for more cars in ditches. “We get calls to an accident scene, and you have to direct traffic outside and stand out in rural areas. ... Our guys wear several layers.”

That’s the secret for many of the workers who deal with the cold weather: bundle up.

Megan Smeraldo, a Dunkin Donuts drive-thru employee, said her co-workers were alternating who worked the drive-thru so that they all stayed warm.

Smeraldo wore extra sweatshirts Tuesday to cope with the cold temperatures.

According to the National Weather Service, the wind chill was forecast to be minus 16 Tuesday.

“I don’t like to complain,” Smeraldo said. “Customers usually suggest I wear more clothing, even though we wear sweatshirts.”

Smeraldo said she doesn’t wear gloves because it would be inconvenient to keep putting them on and taking them off to wash her hands.

Tow truck drivers also were busy Tuesday getting cars out of ditches. Shannon Lovett, tow driver for Lovett’s 24 Hour Towing, said he got about two hours’ sleep Tuesday morning.

He said the arctic weather affects the larger equipment with gelling of diesel fuel. However, workers maintained vehicles to ensure they were able to run, Lovett said.

“We’re seasoned in these type of conditions,” he said.

An accident involving one of the company’s trucks took place at abut 8 a.m. Monday in which a car rear-ended it because of low visibility on Interstate 88 in Maple Park, Lovett said.

No one was injured in the incident, he said.

Waste Management decided to suspend service for the second day in a row Tuesday because trucks were not starting because of the fuel gelling, said Waste Management driver Teyun Curtis.

Curtis said service would be pushed back one day and that they might recruit drivers who normally help with leaf pick-up in the fall for extra help. He said in the two years he has worked with Waste Management, Tuesday was the third time the company suspended service.

“This very rarely happens,” he said. “We’ve been used to working in 10- or 15-below, but I’ve never remembered it being this cold before.”

The colder weather also made delivery drivers busier because many people are staying home.

Brandon Luke, delivery driver for Lukulo’s Restaurant, said people have been very appreciative of his commitment to delivering food in cold weather.

“Everyone’s really nice and understands the conditions out there,” he said.

Luke said the cold hadn’t affected him. If anything, it has helped him.

“[The tips are] a lot better than normal,” he said.

Weather Forecast:
Today – High: 9 degrees, Low: minus 2 degrees
Thursday – High: 23 degrees, Low: 21 degrees
Friday – High: 34 degree, Low: 33 degrees
Source: National Weather Service

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