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updated: 12/12/2010 11:17 AM

Experts offer tips to fend off the cold

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  • Antoinette Schaffer of Chicago delivers mail in Palatine, dressed in warm gear as she carries up to 70 pounds of mail during her route. She not only delivers the mail but also delivers smiles to all on her route with her good-natured spirit and laughter.

       Antoinette Schaffer of Chicago delivers mail in Palatine, dressed in warm gear as she carries up to 70 pounds of mail during her route. She not only delivers the mail but also delivers smiles to all on her route with her good-natured spirit and laughter.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Antoinette Schaffer, who delivers mail in Palatine, says hand warmers are essential in bitter cold weather. On really cold days she will walk closer to the houses to block the wind.

       Antoinette Schaffer, who delivers mail in Palatine, says hand warmers are essential in bitter cold weather. On really cold days she will walk closer to the houses to block the wind.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Salvation Army bell ringer Lavaughn Peoples of Waukegan works outside the Round Lake Beach Walmart. He says layers of clothing are key to staying warm.

       Salvation Army bell ringer Lavaughn Peoples of Waukegan works outside the Round Lake Beach Walmart. He says layers of clothing are key to staying warm.
    Lee Filas | Staff Photographer

  • Salvation Army bell ringer Lavaughn Peoples of Waukegan works outside the Round Lake Beach Walmart Friday.

       Salvation Army bell ringer Lavaughn Peoples of Waukegan works outside the Round Lake Beach Walmart Friday.
    Lee Filas | Staff Photographer

  • Anthony Landeroz, a ComEd lineman who did work outdoors in Rolling Meadows on Friday, agrees with other outdoor workers that layers are key to keeping warm.

       Anthony Landeroz, a ComEd lineman who did work outdoors in Rolling Meadows on Friday, agrees with other outdoor workers that layers are key to keeping warm.
    Jake Griffin | Staff Photographer

  • Sal Vargas says Under Armour helps while collecting shopping carts at the Target in South Elgin.

       Sal Vargas says Under Armour helps while collecting shopping carts at the Target in South Elgin.
    Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Graphic:

 
Daily Herald staff report

Baby, it's cold outside, so we decided to go to the experts people who have to work outside in the elements, no matter the weather to get some tips about how they stay warm and bear the bone-chilling temps. Here's what they had to say:

Four layers for ComEd lineman

Except for the 30-minute lunch break in the cab of his rig, ComEd lineman Anthony Landeroz spends most of his eight-hour workdays outside.

The five-year veteran said he wears at least four layers of clothes to do his job during the cold months.

"The most important thing is to keep your hands and face warm," he said. "You learn quick. I keep extra stuff at work in a locker and in the truck. Those hand warmer packets are essential."

Insulated work boots, thick socks, thermal underwear, jeans, a hooded sweatshirt and coveralls also are essential winter wear for his job.

"Twenty- to 30-degree days aren't bad. It's a different story when it gets below zero," Landeroz said Friday, as he and partner Todd Tobler erected new, taller utility poles along Algonquin Road in Rolling Meadows.

Bear-ing it

So what about those Chicago Bears, who'll run up and down the field all day today in the bitter cold and wind?

"Just remind the guys to put on all the clothing, the thermals that we provide for them," said Tony Medlin, the Bears head equipment manager. "Make sure they wear them. Some of the younger guys don't know, or don't think how cold it is until they get out there. We just make sure they have what they need."

What about offensive linemen who don't want to wear long sleeves?

"They know how to stay warm, they know what to do and it's about performing," said Medlin, who has been with the team 24 years, 14 as head equipment manager. "Whatever they wear, whatever they don't wear, they know what they have to do to perform. It doesn't matter how cold it is for some guys."

The team also has sideline heaters, heated benches, hot broth, hot chocolate, heat packs for players' gloves on the sidelines, even a thermal cream for their arms and faces (not Vaseline, which is illegal), Medlin says.

But the key is experience: "Once you experience one time, you pretty much know."

Layers help bell ringer too

Lavaughn Peoples of Waukegan said the trick to staying out in the bitter cold while ringing a bell for the Salvation Army is wearing plenty of layers of clothing.

"I'm wearing three pairs of pants, three pairs of socks, two shirts and two coats," he said. "The more you put on the better."

Peoples also said you should eat a large breakfast, drink plenty of liquids, and go inside if you start to feel frozen.

"Last week was brutal," he said while standing at his red holiday kettle outside of the Round Lake Beach Walmart on Route 83 on Friday. "And, next week, it'll be even worse. I might even have to wear a face mask on those days."

Hot chocolate helps

When Ana Cisneros woke up today, she was to begin her third brutal winter as an outdoor drive-through attendant at Portillo's.

The 21-year-old Aurora resident was less than excited about the forecast single-digit temps, but she was ready. Working outside the Portillo's at 950 E. Ogden Ave. in Naperville in the afternoon, she expected to take orders from more than 200 customers.

"Every winter you see the weather forecast for the days you work and it's just like 'Oh man,' but I do it," she said. "It's my job and it's a lot of fun."

On the cold days, Portillo's provides its four to six outside workers with unlimited hot chocolate and a uniform of hats, gloves, boots and a snowsuit. Sometimes, on days like today, that's not always enough.

"I bundle up good with a couple pairs of socks, sweatpants over my regular pants, an extra hoodie and extra gloves," she said. "The customers always tell me to go inside and that I shouldn't be out here but it's OK. I keep warm."

And if ever the chill gets to be too much, she's got warm co-workers inside ready to cycle out and relieve her. But not for too long.

"Even on the coldest days, it's a really fun job," she said. "The customers are really nice."

Hot packs essential

The secret is hot packs and lots of them, says Antoinette Schaffer, a 48-year-old letter carrier while working her mail delivery route in Palatine.

Schaffer said mail carriers layer on clothes and can't get too bulky because they have to carry so much weight nearly 70 pounds in their arms. That's why she keeps at least three hot packs on hand enough to last 10 hours when it gets cold.

"The elements are always unpredictable," Schaffer said. "Have hot packs or warmers available in your truck somewhere that it doesn't take you no more than five minutes to get to. No matter what the temperature drops to, it's going to keep you at least up to 68 degrees. That's the best secret to survive. That's 97 percent of what we do."

Carriers wear uniforms made mostly of breathable cotton that are fast-drying, as well as woolen winter gear. Hot packs aren't standard issue for mail carriers.

"When they train you they don't tell you that," Schaffer said. "They just tell you to get good gear. That hot pack will be a sweater to you, if you don't have a sweater. You learn that with the job. Once you break them open out of the plastic, they are ready to go."

Under Armour times two

Sal Vargas has been working at the Target in South Elgin for only three weeks and said he likes his job, but "the worst part is the cold."

To combat the times he needs to go outside and collect the many carts that accumulate in the vast parking lot, he says he layers up.

"For cold days like Sunday, I'll wear two Under Armour shirts and layer them under my sweater," he said.

• Daily Herald staff writers Jake Griffin, Bob LeGere, Lee Filas, Justin Kmitch, Madhu Krishnamurthy and Rick West contributed to this report.

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