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For some professionals, the cold is part of the job

by For some professionals, the cold is part of the job

Posted on 12/7/2013

Between the piercing cold and the driving wind, this week's weather conditions have forced people in a number of professions to adapt to wind chills as low as minus 45.

"We're definitely very proactive on coverage and being there for the highway assist," said Sgt. Tom Herzig, a regional sergeant with the North Dakota Highway Patrol, which has shifted emphasis from enforcement to recovering stranded motorists this week.

Herzig encouraged the public to take the cold weather seriously, and to keep winter survival kits, including blankets, in their cars, and bring cellphones when traveling.

NDHP troops themselves are equipped with wool-blend trousers and long-sleeved shirts as part of their ordinary uniforms, Herzig said, and the bullet-resistant vests that they normally wear, while uncomfortable in the summer, are quite comfortable in the winter.

They can also replace their light gloves with heavy-duty mittens, and their campaign hats with fur-lined, ear-flapped winter hats, and wear insulated boots. Blizzard snowsuits are available too - Herzig generally brings his with him in the car in case it's needed.

While vehicles are more cold-weather-capable than they used to be, Herzig said, people's cars still do sometimes break down, so it's important to pay attention to weather conditions.

"We've got all these conveniences and reliabilities, but when it does happen, it's still deadly," he said, recalling two stranded motorists who had to stand outdoors in street shoes and light coats after a vehicle fire.

Mail carriers, too, have had to cope with weather conditions. City carriers with the U.S. Postal Service have cleats available, to help them avoid slipping on ice, and they have hand-warmers, too.

Rural carriers, who leave their vehicles less often, do bring winter survival kits along on their routes, and try to dress warm.

"You've got to just take each day at a time with the snow. You don't know which road is open and which road isn't," said Craig Neys, who delivers mail in the Pingree, N.D., area. "You've got to drive slower all the time."

Lately, his route has been taking about an hour or an hour and a half longer than it usually does, Neys said, "if I don't get stuck and don't have any breakdowns."

He wears extra layers and keeps his vehicle's heat on.

"Everybody just stay warm and have a very happy holiday season, and the mail will get through as best we can," Neys said.

At Jamestown Regional Airport, winter weather factors - and mitigating them - are included in the snow and ice control plan.

"If the braking action is too poor, we close down the runway," said Matt Leitner, airport manager.

That's tested using an accelerometer, which shows what an aircraft would experience when utilizing the runway. The results of the tests are published online and sent out to air traffic control.

To help add friction on icy days, the airport uses washed sand, with no salt or corrosive elements, Leitner said.

"We were watching it pretty closely. We always do when we're in the throes of a weather event," Leitner said.

Two flights were cancelled earlier this week due to visibility issues, but "we did get a number of flights in," he added.

Leitner praised his two full-time operations/rescue/firefighting personnel, as well as the full-time administrative worker, who together keep the airport functioning even during the cold weather.

"They're the best of the best of the best," Leitner said.

Part-time personnel also assist with snow removal at the airport, especially during longer weather events.

"And we watch one another too, because perish the thought, if there were an accident and they weren't responding to a radio call? We would go out right away," Leitner said.

At the Bar V Ranch 10 miles north of Jamestown, the cattle seem to be weathering the cold pretty well.

"Livestock that are healthy and in good condition, they're kind of designed to handle the elements well," said Brian Amundson, who owns the large-scale cattle ranch.

It's critical that the animals have a good supply of water, some sort of wind break that will provide them with protection and, because they will need more energy in cold weather, high-quality feed.

"Our cows go down in the river bottoms, and into the thickets they're protected there," Amundson said.

As far as the people working on the Bar V go, Amundson said most of them had been raised in the area and know what to expect.

"You have to be concerned about frostbite and that type of thing. The biggest thing is to dress warm, and if you start feeling cold, you've got to come inside," Amundson said.

Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453 or by email at klucin@jamestownsun.com