It was too cold even to make snow.

That’s what Waterville Parks & Recreation foreman Sam Green said Thursday at the Harold Alfond Snowmaking Center while taking a break from grooming the trails at Quarry Road. With the temperature fluctuating between 1 and minus 15 across central Maine, Green, of Fairfield, said it was too chilly to operate correctly the air compressor needed to make the snow for the trails.

Much of the northern United States — including Maine — is experiencing frigid temperature in the closing days of 2017. The National Weather Service has issued a wind chill advisory through 7 a.m. Friday for south central and southwest Maine.

For those who work outdoors, the brutal cold requires preparedness, care and endurance.

Even without snow-making on his to-do list, Green still has plenty of work to do, most of which takes him outside regardless of the weather. To keep the trails clean for snowmobile riders, skiers and snowshoers, he drives a snowmobile around the 8 miles of trails every day, seven days a week. It can take up to five hours if Green is doing the work on his own.

During the winter, he makes sure to bundle up with long underwear, Carhartt pants, a sweatshirt, thick gloves and military boots. Green leaves his face exposed so that it doesn’t affect his peripheral vision and he can see what’s going on behind him, which, he said, can make for a lot of discomfort on blustery days.

“When the wind gets going, that’s the worst,” he said.

With the temperature sitting just above zero and the wind chill between 10 below and 15 below, according to the National Weather Service in Gray, it would be tough for anyone to get a job done. But taking the day off is not an option for workers such as Green, as well as the construction crew members, mail carriers, firefighters and utility workers across central Maine who have to face the cold in order to do the work that their jobs require.

Veteran letter carrier Chris Winzler said he’s learned to bundle up during the cold snaps over the nine years he’s worked for the postal service.

Winzler, of Vassalboro, was wearing two layers of socks, a t-shirt, a thermal over that, a sweatshirt and a puffy coat as he delivered mail Thursday on his route on Eustis Parkway in Waterville. He also wore gloves and a hat, and he keeps the heat running between deliveries.

“This is not as bad. There have been worse times,” he said. “I’ve had to wear something over my face, it was that cold.”

Crew members working on the Colby College residence hall under construction at The Concourse in Waterville encountered adversity because of the cold weather.

It was so cold that the propane tanks fueling heat pumped into the enclosed portion of the site were freezing up, said Paul Ureneck, Colby’s director of commercial real estate.

A different gas had to be mixed with it so that heat again would start reaching the 22 masons working inside the enclosure, Ureneck said.

But for many of the crew members putting up sheathing on the building’s exterior, the temperature was too much to bear.

“Today we had eight guys here, and they decided to leave. There are three left,” said Jason Giggey, a crew member working for Zimba Co. “Today and yesterday were the first time that we really cut hours short.”

A lot of the crew’s work is done on lifts that take workers to the upper floors of the unfinished building, and at that height, the wind really starts to make an impact.

“When it gets cold like this in the winter and the wind kicks in, that’s what really gets you,” he said. “So when you get up there, it’s even worse because you can’t move around much and create body heat.”

Giggey, of Unity, said when crew workers leave and cut their hours short, the project time line can be affected. However, he said the crew does its best to make up that work when the temperature is higher and the weather improves.

For some occupations, the demand for outside work rises when conditions are at their worst.

Since the temperature plummeted earlier this week, work for Rick’s Towing in Richmond has been nearly around the clock, according to Mark Tuttle, who drives for the small towing company. When he gets a call to pull someone out of a ditch or jump-start a car with a dead battery and a stranded motorist, staying home isn’t an option.

“Yeah, it’s cold, but when you’re out there, you can’t think about the coldness. The job has got to be done. You can’t stop and think about being cold,” he said. “As long as you keep moving, you’re all set. If you stand there and let someone else do the work, you’ll get cold.”

For Greater Augusta Utility District workers, work outside often involves digging up and fixing broken pipes, which can be spewing water, or worse — leaking sewage.

On Thursday, district workers were repairing a water main break serving about a half-dozen homes on Allen Street in Augusta.

Cold, wet conditions slow the work, and tasks become more difficult as equipment fails. Workers also are slowed down by the bulky layers of clothing needed to try to stay warm while working outside in freezing conditions.

Tim Wade, operations manager for the utility district, who had been outside most of the morning, said the district supplies its workers with cold-weather clothing and $150 each to get good insulated rubber muck boots with steel toes. When it gets cold, he and other workers wear long johns, a base layer of clothing, coveralls, gloves, neck warmers and hardhat liners; and they use district-supplied hand and foot warmers.

“We supply our guys with the best clothing and safety equipment, which helps, but that can become cumbersome, wearing bulking clothing, when you’re using small tools to make a repair,” Wade said. “And the cold is hard on our equipment. For instance, this morning two dump trucks aren’t operating correctly because of the cold air. Lines freeze up. Pumps and small motor equipment can be a struggle to get running. A lot of our equipment relies on circulating water, which is almost impossible to run on days this cold.”

Perhaps more than any occupation, firefighters and rescue workers must heed the call of duty, regardless of weather.

Augusta Fire and Rescue Battalion Chief Scott Dunbar said firefighting equipment, no matter how good it is, can freeze up in weather such as what arrived this week. Just Tuesday night, firefighters responding to a late night fire that destroyed an Outlet Road mobile home faced brutally cold conditions as they aimed their hoses at the blaze.

Dunbar said a couple of gates on fire engines, which control the water flow to hoses, froze up because of the cold.

When the weather gets cold and firefighters are at a scene for an extended period of time, he said, they will have an area where they can take a break, such as in a warm rescue vehicle with the heat on, and where they can drink fluids to help avoid becoming dehydrated in the cold.

Construction workers working on a large expansion of Hartford Station, Augusta’s Fire Department headquarters, also have kept working this week, despite the cold.

Dunbar said firefighters were impressed to see steel workers keep working on the site, especially because some parts of the workers’ jobs required them to work with their bare hands.

“We were all in awe that they were out there doing steel,” Dunbar said.

Wade said when it gets extremely cold, utility district workers may work in groups and take short breaks, and working to get jobs done as efficiently as they can also can help limit their time outside.

Despite having to work in adverse conditions, he said he appreciates the wide variety of tasks involved in working for the district.

Tuttle said tow truck drivers may get only three or four hours of sleep some days. They have to go out in all conditions to where the calls take them, he said, including the interstate highway, where many drivers fail to move over or slow down when passing an emergency vehicle with flashing lights as state law requires.

“My brothers and sisters in this business, we all have families to come home to, too, and whether it’s warm out or cold out, we have a job to do,” he said.

For the cold, he dresses in layers and drinks coffee — lots of it.

Wade said his coldest days working outside were back when he used to work on the mountain for Sugarloaf USA.

But perhaps his coldest day on the job since he’s been working for Greater Augusta Utility District was Feb. 14, 2015, when a break in a main pipe forced him and others to work late, as about 10 inches of snow fell and air temperature of around minus 5 was joined by strong wind creating a wind chill of minus 30.

He joked that the coldest part of that day might have been working late on Valentine’s Day, making workers’ spouses unhappy.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

Emily Higginbotham — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @EmilyHigg

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