Summer is sizzling, but these workers are chilled out

Summer is sizzling, but these workers are chilled out

July 19th, 2010 by Adam Crisp in News

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.

Staff Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press Taylor...

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.

"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."

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