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Metro Detroit employees brave icy temperatures

George Hunter
The Detroit News
Theron Dillard delivers for Seven Greens restaurant on his bike in downtown Detroit, which was experiencing record cold weather on Wednesday.

Detroit — Arctic temperatures prompted the U.S. Postal Service to halt mail delivery Wednesday — but neither cold, nor winds nor gloomy forecasts prevented Theron Dillard from hopping on his bicycle and making his appointed rounds delivering salads.

"It was brutal," said Dillard, 26, a bicycle deliveryman for the 7 Greens Detroit Salad Co. restaurant in downtown Detroit near Cadillac Center. "I endured it, though. As long as it's not raining or snowing, it's bearable."

While employers from the Postal Service to construction firms kept their workers indoors safe from Wednesday's arctic freeze, Dillard was among the unfortunate Metro Detroiters who had to bundle up and bear it.

At least two people in Metro Detroit died Wednesday because of the arctic temperatures, which were compounded by high winds. The National Weather Service has issued a wind chill warning for Southeast Michigan that's in effect until 11 a.m. Thursday.

According to the Weather Service, Wednesday and Thursday are expected to see the coldest temperatures in southeast Michigan since February 2014. From Wednesday morning into the afternoon, readings in Detroit stayed below zero.

Wind gusts of up to 40 mph could cause the wind-chill temperature to drop to 25 to 45 below zero, meteorologists said.

Michigan's Capitol was shut down Wednesday because of the cold, but that didn't mean Michigan State Police troopers stopped patrolling the grounds.

Trooper Jeremy Nunez made his rounds on the Capitol grounds on a bicycle Wednesday, struggling to pedal through snow drifts. By 8:30 a.m., he'd finished his second patrol of the day, and planned to head to Capitol City Airport.

Michigan State Police officer Jeremy Nunez pedals through the drifts in front of the state Capitol on Wednesday morning. Although state government is shut because of the weather, the MSP is still responsible for patrols.

Nunez said he didn't plan on riding his bicycle to the next assignment. “I think we’ll take a patrol car for that," he said.

Construction firms were among the companies that halted work Wednesday. The building site on the grounds of the former J.L. Hudson Department Store downtown, where Detroit's tallest building is in the process of being built, was quiet. Ditto for construction sites at nearby Brush Park, where bulldozers and other equipment sat unmanned.

But some workers, including city employees and contractors, had no choice but to brave the cold as they dealt with water main breaks. The subzero temperatures forced some crews to cut the day short, however.

"I have two crews out today but we just did one emergency each — but that's it, it's just too cold out here," said Jeff Jackson, a superintendent at Major Cement of Detroit, which contracted to fix water main breaks. "Get home, get warm and start all over again tomorrow. A lot of breaks, a lot of breaks."

Employees of Major Cement of Detroit work on a water main break Wednesday on Canfield between Cass and Second in Detroit. "It's just too cold out here," said Jeff Jackson, superintendent of Major Cement. "Get home, get warm and start all over again tomorrow."

Even 7 Greens Detroit Salad, which was among the handful of downtown restaurants that opened Wednesday, closed early. Normally, the restaurant stays open until 7 p.m., but a sign on the door read, "brrr!" and told customers the establishment was closing at 1 p.m.

"There's no point in staying open," Dillard said. "It's dead. There's nobody down here. I made four deliveries today, but that's it."

ghunter@detroitnews.com
(313) 222-2134
Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN