January raw

MARSHALL – Monday started out with area temperatures around minus five degrees, and as low as minus 11, and it’s not going to get much better through the week, as temperatures are expected to remain well below freezing.

The National Weather Service office in Chanhassen warns, “Frigid temperatures and gusty winds will allow wind chill values to range from -25 to -50 degrees through Monday morning across much of North Dakota and Minnesota as well as northeast South Dakota and north central Iowa. This will lead to dangerous outdoor conditions, including the threat for frostbite and possibly hypothermia or death.”

Though most of us work inside these days, there are still crucial jobs that have to be done outside no matter the weather.

Tim Ronan started his Monday getting a cable modem back online for Charter Communications.

“I know it’s going to be like this all day long,” Ronan said, “You dress warmly and you just do it. That’s all you can do.”

For some, work alternates between indoors and outdoors, or in and out of a heated vehicle. While this protects against long exposure to the cold, it presents its own problems.

Marv Verschelde is a commercial route driver for Southwest Sanitation. On Monday he has 60 stops, at each of which he has to get out of his rear-end loader and do work which is often fairly strenuous.

“Prepare!” Verschelde said. “Try and dress warm and make sure the heat works in the cab. And try to avoid sweating, that’s hard sometimes.”

On Monday, Verschelde wore sweat pants under his jeans, heavy socks, two T-shirts and two hooded sweatshirts.

“And I’m still cold,” Verschelde said. “Though in all honesty I’d rather take this than a foot of snow. That makes everything harder.”

Willie Walker, maintenance groundskeeper at Turkey Valley Farms in Marshall, is outside most of the time, every day.

“I make sure I have enough clothes,” Walker said. “Two pairs of socks, insulated coverall the freezer type and freezer boots. I wear glove liners and mittens and I change the liners constantly.”

Dr. C. Paul Martin, a retired physician, says prevention and foresight is the best way to prevent hypothermia and frostbite.

“People think they’ll go out to the store for cigarettes and the car goes off the road, or they slip and fall,” Martin said. “Every time you go out of the house, dress for the weather.”

According to Martin, the symptoms of hypothermia start with the extremities getting a bluish tinge and turning pale. Frostbite is more localized in the fingers and toes, and is much more common. It usually occurs when people get their hands and feet wet and cold.

“If you feel the discomfort in your hands, put them in your armpits,” Martin said. “Get out of the cold, of course, and gradually warm your hands. Wrap them in towels but don’t put them in warm water.”

Martin said in cases of advanced hypothermia, after getting cold and shivering people may get very confused and disoriented. In rare cases they experience what’s called “paradoxical undressing.”

“It’s something that’s been noticed in the past ten years,” Martin said. “People have been found partially nude, frozen to death. They get so confused they start taking their clothes off.”