Crossing guard knows cold temperatures must be taken seriously

Crossing guard Lisa Morrell helps students cross the steet from Blessed Sacrament at Eighth and Adams after school Wednesday. (H-W Photo/Michael Kipley)
Posted: Jan. 24, 2013 10:09 am Updated: Feb. 7, 2013 11:15 am

Herald-Whig Senior Writer

Lisa Morrell was standing outside the past three mornings as a school crossing guard on Quincy's south side.

"It was below 10 degrees. That's probably the worst I've seen in the last two years," Morrell said.

She combats the cold by wearing extra layers of clothing, two pairs of socks and scarves to protect her face from the cold if it's windy as she directs traffic at Eighth and Adams for students going to or from Blessed Sacrament School.

"I was really spoiled last year. It was a really mild winter and we didn't have any ice or very much snow," she said.

Not everyone is as prepared as Morrell, and some of those people end up in need of medical treatment.

Linda Garner, a registered nurse and the patient care supervisor for Blessing Hospital's Emergency Center, said it doesn't take subzero temperatures to be life-threatening.

"Hypothermia occurs when the core body temperature drops below 95 degrees," Garner said.

That's not a big drop from the normal body temperature of 98.6 degrees, Garner said. There is added risk for the very young and for older adults, whose bodies don't generate as much heat as teens and adults.

Exposed skin adds to the risk of heat loss, and wearing several layers of clothing helps retain body heat that would be lost with fewer layers, even if they have better insulation.

So far this year, emergency room staff members have not seen many cold weather cases.

Cold vehicles and heavy machines have their own problems.

Larry Anderson, operations manager at Interstate All Battery in Quincy, said the cold snap that came into the region last week is the second round of cold temperatures this winter. While he's seen people buying some new car batteries since the weekend, the earlier cold spell caused a greater spike.

"Battery sales definitely spike a little bit with the cold. Cold doesn't kill the battery, but you find the weak ones," Anderson said.

Temperatures in Quincy today were expected to rise from a low of 10 degrees to a high of 20 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. Forecasters say a warming trend will begin overnight, with lows of around 18 degrees, rising to a high of about 33 on Friday. By Monday, the high is forecast to be 41 degrees.

Residents are happy they're not competing for the coldest spot in the lower 48 states with places like Babbitt, Minn., where it was 29 degrees below zero on Sunday, or Embarrass, Minn., where it was 36 below on Monday and was still 15 below by late Tuesday.

Certain jobs face greater challenges when it's cold. Chicago firefighters on Tuesday battled a warehouse blaze in temperatures of around 10 degrees. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that more than 170 firefighters responded to the five-alarm blaze at an abandoned warehouse on the city's south side that took nearly three hours to get under control.

Although cold temperatures are nothing out of the ordinary in January, the chill took some people by surprise.

At least two trailers at construction sites had frozen water pipes because they did not have the insulation or heat tape used in most residences. Workers at Tom Geise Plumbing Inc. in Quincy were kept busy early this week dealing with water leaks and frozen pipes.

Melanie Schrand, the principal at Baldwin West, was checking temperatures Wednesday morning to see whether students would get to go out for early recess for the first time this week.

"We always check the actual temperature and the wind-chill factor. If it's less than 20 degrees, we usually have an inside recess," Schrand said.

When temperatures are just a few degrees warmer than listed in the school district's policy manual, Schrand said students have sometimes been allowed to take 8- to 10-minute recess breaks to burn off energy. Then they're brought back indoors to warm up.

"We watch the students headed out for recess to see that they're wearing a coat, gloves and a hat," Schrand said.