published Friday, July 6th, 2012

The illusion of cool: Some jobs keep workers hot despite looking chilly

Glenn Shaw places bags of ice on a conveyor belt to be loaded into a truck at Tennessee Valley Ice Co.
Glenn Shaw places bags of ice on a conveyor belt to be loaded into a truck at Tennessee Valley Ice Co.
Photo by Angela Lewis.

5-DAY OUTLOOK

Today: Temperatures could hit triple digits, with some storms in the afternoon. "If it hits 100, that ties for a [temperature record]," said WRCB-TV Channel 3 chief meteorologist Paul Barys.

*Saturday and Sunday: Temperatures will hover in the 90s over the weekend, hitting a steamy 99 on Saturday then dropping to a somewhat-cooler 93 degrees Sunday. Lows are forecast at 74 both days, as are some scattered afternoon storms.

Next week: The workweek will start wet. Storms are forecast Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, with Monday's 90-degree high the hottest day of the first part of the week.

"It won't be as hot," Barys said. "The atmosphere is very juicy right now. There's a lot of water. We could see some hail, and a lot of lightning, but no tornadoes."

Source: Meteorologist Paul Barys

FAN GIVEAWAY

The Salvation Army in Cleveland, Tenn., has fans to give away to people who need them.

The fans are available for pickup at The Salvation Army at 437 Inman St. in Cleveland, from 9:30 a.m to 4:00 p.m.

For more information, call 308-3467.

As the sun scorches and temperatures rise on outdoor workers, a few jobs might seem preferable to others for beating the heat.

Hosing down trucks and vans at the car wash, rolling through neighborhoods with coolers full of sweet ice cream treats or hauling 10-pound bags of ice to gas stations and restaurants sound as if they'd offer some relief from the heat. Right?

Think again.

On the hottest day of the year so far -- 107 degrees last Saturday -- Trey Stewart stacked bags of ice into a cooler in the bed of his delivery truck. Working on the loading dock of Tennessee Valley Ice Co. on South Creek Road off Amnicola Highway, the only way he stays cool is to hurry.

"I try to work as fast as I can. The faster you deliver, the faster you get back in the air conditioning," he said.

Stewart was running a "hotshot" route, filling ice orders placed the night before or that morning, said company Vice President Gary Bloodworth, who has worked nearly every job at the ice company since his father bought the business in 1974.

He downplayed the heat.

"It's not as big an issue for us," he said, because the ice trucks are set at 20 degrees Fahrenheit and offer a cooldown when workers are running their routes.

Stewart begs to differ. The only thing that's cool on him are his hands, he said, and everything else just sweats.

The daily maximum temperature rose from 77 degrees on June 1 to a record high of 107 degrees on June 30 and July 1, according to the National Weather Service at Morristown, Tenn. The rising heat technically broke on July 2 when the mercury dropped to 97, a 10-degree decrease from the previous day.

But weather service meteorologist Derek Eisentrout said Thursday that the higher temperatures were the result of warmer temperatures from an earlier-than-usual spring and a pressure system that kept "oppressive high temperatures" in the region this summer.

But the hottest part of the summer has yet to come. Traditionally, Eisentrout said, late July and early August present a year's heat peaks before the summer season begins its slow cool into fall.

For many, the friendly ice cream truck jingle echoing through local neighborhoods signals a cool snack, but while the ice cream is frozen, the trucks' cabs don't have air conditioning. To get any kind of relief, drivers must leave their windows open, but they still sweat out their routes waiting for customers.

And though it may sound counter-intuitive, when it gets too hot, not many people want to leave their house and few kids are outdoors, said ice cream truck driver Ed Wheeler.

The best days for ice cream sales, said the 57-year-old Frosty Treats driver, are in May when school lets out and it's cool enough to be outside but warm enough to crave a frosty snack.

Another not-so-cool job is at an indoor car wash. There's water, water everywhere, and the unique environment of the drive-through, indoor car wash offers a reprieve from direct sunlight, but it creates a whole other problem -- junglelike humidity.

Standing at the entrance of Surfs Up Car Wash on Signal Mountain Road, owner Jon Woodward points to an area between the door and the first set of machine blowers and sprayers. The air that hits the car and the water that jets across the windshield fight any breeze coming in from outside, he explained, trapping a cloud-like ball of moisture right where his worker stands to direct drivers onto the automated wash. That spot can be as much as 20 degrees hotter than the outside temperature, he said, and holds up to 100 percent humidity.

"So that surfing thing's kind of like surfing the Amazon," he said.

Employees take needed breaks and are told to drink plenty of water while spraying and spreading suds on cars rolling through their doors. Customers benefit by not having to get out of their cars, Woodward said, but he and his workers sweat in their place.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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