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For those stuck working in the Metro area cold: Layers

Francis X. Donnelly, Charles E. Ramirez and Ursula Watson
The Detroit News

Think you’ve got it tough with the cold weather?

How about the people who have to work in it?

While you’re sidling up to the radiator at the office, these poor sods are right in the thick of it.

How do they cope? How do they walk into the embrace of a deep freeze that won’t lessen its grip on them for eight hours?

Layers, of course. Plenty of coffee, for sure. Seeking warm refuges as often as possible, naturally.

Dan Rodriguez goes the hot-beverage route. The tow truck driver from Detroit buys java all day long.

“I used to have a Thermos but it got cold as soon as I put it on the seat,” he said Wednesday as he worked in temperatures that struggled into the high teens.

Unlike some members of the cold weather fraternity, Rodriguez, 36, has a ready shelter from the elements — his truck. He keeps the heat cranked so leaving his vehicle feels like jumping from a sauna into a frigid pool.

Tony Pace has to deal with a double whammy.

The supervisor of the Jax Kar Wash in Rochester not only faces the cold, but water, too.

To deflect the power wash spray, Pace dons a waterproof jacket and gloves.

He also has another trick.

“I’m Italian, so I’m hot-blooded,” he said.

That should come in handy Thursday, when temperatures will plunge below zero in the morning and again at night, topping out at 4 degrees in between, according to the National Weather Service. Wind chills of minus-20 are possible.

But at least this freeze is nowhere near as cold as the lowest temperature ever recorded in the state: minus 51 at Vanderbilt, near Gaylord, on Feb. 9, 1934, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

It’s not just people who have to deal with the bitter cold and stinging wind. Flowers must be heavily sheathed as they’re delivered, said florists.

Stacey Choley, a floral designer at Thrifty Florist in Roseville, wraps the flora in paper and places it inside a box with more paper.

And it’s absolutely verboten to leave the flowers on a doorstep. “Someone has to sign for them,” she said.

One of the most popular ways to combat the cold is layers, said workers.

Everyone swears by them.

Faygo driver Ken Ficht was swaddled like a newborn while delivering pop Wednesday in Roseville.

His ensemble included a hat, gloves, work boots, wool socks, long underwear, two T-shirts, a thermal top and a hoodie. “I just dress warm and keep moving,” he said.

If you’re looking for another expert in coping with the cold, how about a doctor?

Dr. Tony Bonfiglio, an emergency doctor at St. John Macomb-Oakland Hospital in Warren, said people need to limit how long their skin is exposed as much as possible.

People who work outside also should take frequent breaks because prolonged exposure damages their tissues.

And in a bit of bad news for a certain car wash, Bonfiglio said people need to stay as dry as possible.

“Dry and cold is far better than wet and cold,” he said.

The doctor said he has treated more cases of frostnip this season than its more sinister cousin, frostbite. Most of the cases were experienced by the homeless community, he said.

And, like everyone else, the good doctor recommended layering up.

“The more padded materials, the better,” he said.

Staff Writer Candice Williams contributed.

A cold, hard forecast

Relief from Metro Detroit’s deepest and longest cold snap of the winter won’t arrive until Saturday.

Thursday: Mostly sunny with a high of 4, with winds gusting to 23 mph.

Thursday night: Mostly clear with a low of minus-9.

Friday: Mostly sunny with a high near 12.

Friday night: Snow likely, accumulating less than one inch. Low around 8.

Saturday: Chance of snow with a high near 30.

Source: National Weather Service