published Monday, July 19th, 2010

Summer is sizzling, but these workers are chilled out

by Adam Crisp
  • photo
    Staff Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press Taylor Fuquea shovels ice out of a bin for a customer at the Tennessee Valley Ice Co.

The Chattanooga area hasn’t seen temperatures in the teens since Jan. 10, when the mercury plummeted to 19 degrees.

But every day when Gary Bloodworth and the 20 or so other employees report to Tennessee Valley Ice Co., they routinely toil the day in frosty temperatures while their cars bake in 90- to 100-degree heat.

The plant is one of the coldest in Chattanooga and it’s got to be that way, Mr. Bloodworth said. The ice lines at the factory, just off Amnicola Highway, turn out 36 bags of ice a minute. Temperatures any warmer would result in poor-quality ice that melts then re-freezes into rock-hard blocks at the stores, he said.

And that’s bad form during the prime season for ice sales.


Sweetwater, Tenn.

How cold is it: Underground, temperatures stay a constant 58 degrees.

How pros beat the chill: If they keep moving, most folks don’t even notice, said Brandon Freeman, a ticket agent.

What the insiders say: “In the summer, if people have to wait in line, they really appreciate the cool rush of air as they go down the tunnel into the cave,” Mr. Freeman said. “It feels nice and cool here.”


26 Frazier Ave., Chattanooga

How cold is it: The air conditioning was set in the mid-60s Friday, but it fluctuates if there are a lot of customers coming in and out.

How the insiders beat the chill: “People think I’m crazy, but I wear a hoodie all summer long,” said manager Tyler Mullis.

What the insiders say: “I freeze to death all the time,” Mr. Mullis said. “The air conditioning is only off in the winter.”


301 Manufacturers Road, Chattanooga

How cold is it: Meat counter workers stand under individual air conditioning vents to keep the meat cold. Inside the cooler, it’s a chilly 30 degrees and the mercury reads in the teens in the freezer.

How the insiders beat the chill: Employees all wear fleece jackets even in the summer.

What the insiders say: “You get used to it,” said employee Christian Montgomery. “Your body gets adjusted, and when you go outside, it doesn’t take much for me to get red-faced.”


Tennessee Aquarium, Chattanooga

Average temperature: The macaroni and gentoo penguins need the air and water temperature a constant 42 degrees. It’s pretty similar to the summer temperatures on the penguins’ natural home on the Falkland Islands off the east coast of Argentina and it doesn’t change for seasons.

How the insiders beat the chill: The penguins are used to the temperatures, but humans need jackets during feedings and daily shows.

What the insiders say: “Our birds are sub-Antarctic penguins, so they wouldn’t do well in temperatures much cooler than 42 degrees,” said aquarium spokesman Thom Benson. “When it was really cold back over the winter, we actually ran into problems.”


Athens, Tenn.

Average temperature: Inside the cooler it’s a frosty 20 degrees below zero.

How the insiders beat the chill: Plant employees must wear jackets, and they must take 15-minute breaks every 45 minutes. Coffee and trips outdoors help regulate body temperatures.

What the insiders say: “It’s so funny in the summer to see these guys in 100-degree heat putting on big jackets to go back to work,” said plant spokeswoman Bridgett Raper. “When you are in there, you can feel the cold in your nose; little ice crystals start to form.”


East Ridge

Average temperature: Thermostats are set at 70 to 72 degrees

How the insiders beat the chill: The temperature is about the average of most homes, said Jeremy Devine, Rave Motion Pictures vice president of marketing.

What the insiders say: “The key is comfort,” Mr. Devine said. “We want to keep it pretty close to what people would feel at home. Since it’s a newer building, that’s not so hard. As you can imagine, with 18 screens, there are multiple, multiple air conditioners there.”

“It’s mostly recreational, people going to the lake and having cookouts, that keep us busy,” said Mr. Bloodworth, the plant’s vice president. “But construction workers and industrial users are big, too.”

He fills 20 ice boxes at the Volkswagen construction site each day, mostly for employees keeping their lunches and beverages cool.

Taylor Fuquea, who was shoveling shaved “snow ice” into a customer’s cooler Friday, said while the 10 or 15 minutes he spent outside were scorching hot, it only took a few minutes inside the ice plant to cool off.

Tennessee Valley Ice stores the unbagged product in a huge room that’s ideally below 20 degrees. Once bagged, hundreds of pallets of ice are stored in a room that stays in the 30s or lower.

In summer temperatures, there’s no time to waste between freezer and truck, Mr. Bloodworth said.

Across the region, there are a handful of businesses that rely on cold temperatures and strong air conditioning to stay cool.

Clumpies Ice Cream and the Mayfield Ice Cream plant in Athens, Tenn., the meat market at Greenlife Grocery and the Tennessee Aquarium’s Penguins’ Rock exhibit all need good air conditioning to stay cool.

But there are some places that are naturally resistant to sweltering summer temperatures.

“The Lost Sea stays a constant 58 degrees,” said Brandon Freeman, a ticket agent at the underground lake in Sweetwater, Tenn. “It’s really nice and cool down here. Visitors say that all the time.”

Continue reading by following these links to related stories:

Article: It's hot, hot, hot

Article: Heat scorches region

Article: Stay hydrated in summer

about Adam Crisp...

Adam Crisp covers education issues for the Times Free Press. He joined the paper's staff in 2007 and initially covered crime, public safety, courts and general assignment topics. Prior to Chattanooga, Crisp was a crime reporter at the Savannah Morning News and has been a reporter and editor at community newspapers in southeast Georgia. In college, he led his student paper to a first-place general excellence award from the Georgia College Press Association. He earned ...

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