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Cold weather makes outside work challenging
0105weather
Gainesville Public Utilities worker Jason Wapkins fills a bucket with water Monday while working at Dunlap Landing Road. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

0105WEATHERaud

Kris Griffin, supervisor with the Gainesville Public Utilities Department, talks about working outside during bone-chilling temperatures.

National Weather Service's forecast for Gainesville

Area forecast

Here’s the National Weather Service’s prediction for the next few days:

Today: Mostly sunny, with a high temperature of 36
Wednesday: Sunny, with a high near 40
Thursday and Friday: A 20 percent of snow, with a high near 33.

Kris Griffin has seen worse, but Monday morning’s frigid air, made worse by a piercing wind, was no picnic.

The Gainesville Public Utilities supervisor and bundled-up co-workers fought against the 20-degree weather as they used a machine to slice into the asphalt on Dunlap Landing at Cochran Drive as part of a sewer line project.

They also directed traffic past their work, taking place near First United Methodist Church of Gainesville off Thompson Bridge Road.
“You can get used to it, but this week, when it’s going to be in the teens every day ... it’s cold,” he said. “You can get immune to it, but in the teens, you can’t get warm enough.”

For the rest of this week, the mercury is expected to bottom out tonight at 18.

But conditions won’t improve much through Sunday, with lows around 20 and highs mostly in the 30s, according to the National Weather Service in Peachtree City.

Wednesday will be tropical compared to the rest of the week, with a high of 40, but don’t get spoiled.

Up to 2 inches of snow could fall on the area between Thursday and Friday, forecasters say. However, the chance for snow has been downgraded to 20 percent during the day and 30 percent Thursday night.

Throughout the week, outside workers particularly will be battling subfreezing weather.

How does Griffin do it? Easy answer. “Dress warmly — that’s the key,” he said.

“I’ve got all kinds of coveralls and overalls in the truck, fleece shirts and clothes. You got to dress where if you get wet, you’ve got something else to put on to make it through the day,” Griffin said.

He and his workers take occasionally breaks, sitting in the city vehicle with the heater turned on.

Road crews often aren’t as busy during cold snaps because they need warmer weather to do their jobs.

“A lot of what we do is temperature-sensitive,” said Teri Pope, spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Transportation’s District 1. “Asphalt, striping, concrete — those things don’t just cure to the streets when we have cold weather.”

DOT crews were pulled Dec. 17 off a concrete replacement project on Ga. 365, Pope said, adding that “the contract states concrete can’t be poured below 40 degrees.”

On the other hand, the DOT will be watching the skies Thursday and will spring into action if bad weather hits.

“There are things we have to do in emergency and safety situations, no matter what the weather is like — 5-degree wind chill, raining, snow, ice, sleet, it doesn’t matter,” Pope said.

Kelly Randall, Gainesville’s public utilities director, said the city’s water and sewer system usually doesn’t experience problems in the kind of weather that has hit the area.

“It would have to be a lot colder than it is out there now,” he said. “The major problem we have is people’s plumbing. We’ll have to respond and turn water off at the meter because people have (water line) breaks.”

He suggests to prevent such nightmares from happening, homeowners can let their faucets drip, open cabinets so that heat from the house can reach pipes and wrap insulation around exposed pipes.

Chief David Kimbrell of Hall County Fire Services suggests homeowners make sure to get chimneys inspected before getting blazes going in the fireplace and being careful when using space heaters, such as making sure they are not close to combustible items.
Also, Rick Aiken, president of the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia, advises keeping pets indoors — at least in the garage — if at all possible.

“This is unusually cold for us. It’s not like something they’re accustomed to,” he said.

If animals are outside, make sure to change the water in their bowls.

Otherwise, pets might be licking ice “and that is extremely traumatic,” Aiken said. “It would be like us standing out there eating popsicles.”

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