Outdoor workers battle bitter cold temperatures

Despite extremely cold temperatures on Monday, many people had to spend the day working outdoors.
January 6, 2014 3:53:02 PM PST
An Aurora power outage left 22,000 customers without power on the coldest day in decades.

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Power has been restored to most homes Monday evening after an Aurora power outage left 22,000 customers without lights and in the cold earlier in the day Monday.

ComEd said a substation blew. The power outage affected people on the west suburb's Far East Side. ComEd said crews were at the substation, and power was restored to most customers Monday afternoon.

Across Chicago, there was also a spread of outages which had crews busy working outdoors..

You think it is cold on the ground? Try being in a bucket in the air.

Many ComEd crews don't have a choice. They're trying to repair a downed wire to restore electricity in a West Side neighborhood.

''The key to survival is working in shifts, well, they sent out enough people so that we may rotate every 15-20 minutes so no one actually has to deal with being overexposed,'' said ComEd crew leader Chester Byrd.

ComEd says the biggest challenge isn't the cold but the snow.

''Before this crew began working, city crews had to come and plow the alley, but then city trucks got stuck. We were trying to assist them and we got stuck. Then we got out with shovels, you know, the old school way of doing things. We broke the shovels out and dug out. We were able to get them out after that,'' he said.

Working outside in these conditions is tough for letter carriers as well.

''We're pretty well seasoned so were kind of used to it, so when everybody else is cold, it's not so bad,'' said Mark Janic, a mail carrier.

Not so bad as long as they're dressed for it.

Janic said his favorite piece of clothing are his over boots that go over his shoes.

The outdoor store REI says that any worker can survive these historic low temperatures as long as they're prepared for it.

''Any worker can survive these historic low temperatures as long as you have the right layers, and it all starts with the base layer, something close to the skin,'' said Jonathon Wrobel, manager of REI Coop in Lincoln Park.

''Think about insulation, it's all about trapping the air. You're trying to keep insulation in, you're trying to keep warmth in and you want to do everything you can to keep that warmth in,'' he said.

Wrobel said that after the base layer; add two or three layers, unless you have a really good down coat, a 600 fill.

Gloves are also essential and Wrobel says there's no such thing as a thin warm glove. The thicker, the better and understand if all else fails, use hand and even toe warmers.

Aurora officials asked residents not to call 911 unless there is an emergency. Anything related to the power outage should be directed to ComEd by calling 800-Edison 1 or visiting ComEd's website, www.comed.com.