Bone-chilling cold is descending on the Midwest. The last time Chicago faced temperatures this low was more than 30 years ago. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has offered tips for getting yourself, your home and your car ready for winter weather. We asked people in Chicago who work in extreme cold for their practical tips for survival. Here’s what they said.
[For the latest developments, read our Thursday live briefing on the polar vortex here.]
Wear rubber gloves.
Anita Ellis, a crossing guard who was stationed outside John T. McCutcheon Elementary School in Chicago on Tuesday, said that her secret weapon against the cold was hidden inside her thick winter gloves: a thin pair of rubber gloves.
“They keep the moisture in, so the air can’t float through,” she said, adding that any kind of thin, rubbery gloves — the kind that doctors and nurses wear — are effective.
Ms. Ellis, who works as a crossing guard one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon, said she had picked up the tip from her father, who owned a carwash and spent many hours of his day outside in the Chicago winter.
Also part of her arsenal: long underwear, puffy black snow pants and a warm woolen hat that only allows her eyes and nose to peek through.
Ditch the denim. Find some snow pants.
A battering wind left people pulling scarves and masks ever higher around their faces and grimacing as they hurried here and there, but Michael Bomba seemed not to notice. He was standing outside the hotel in downtown Chicago where he is a doorman, same as always. He was actually smiling.
Mr. Bomba’s trick: While he employs the more traditional layering approach for his upper body (a thermal layer, a “couple” of long-sleeve shirts, a windbreaker, a vest, a coat), he takes a radical approach for his lower half. He wears boots and snow pants that are designed for arctic exploration. The pants have extra reinforcing pads on the backside and knees and promise to keep you warm to minus 120. The boots? To 140 below.
“You need to go heavy duty on the bottom — that’s the key,” he said. He had been out half the day, and planned to be out the rest of it. “I’m outside all the time and I feel good. My fingertips are a touch cold, but the rest of the body is creating enough heat so it’s not bad.”
Don’t stop moving.
Jamie Goodman, who cleans coaches on one of the city’s busiest commuter train operations, says the clothes really aren’t the issue. Yes, proper insulation is a must for people like him who work endlessly in the elements cleaning train windows, seats, floors.
Great socks, layered gloves — that’s all essential. But the trick is actually constant movement, Mr. Goodman said.
“You just do not stand still — that’s the key — never,” he said. Of the coming temperatures, even Mr. Goodman admits to being a little cowed. “It’s going to be insane but you just keep moving. And believe me, there’s plenty to do, especially this time of year. So you move and you’re warm. Never stop.”
In Wisconsin, Gov. Tony Evers declared a state of emergency and asked the National Guard to be ready to assist.CreditCreditJoe Ahlquist/The Rochester Post-Bulletin, via Associated Press
The clothes dryer is your friend.
Tony Schreck, the owner of Windy City Dog Walkers, manages a fleet of employees who walk dogs, feed cats and are in and out of houses and apartments all day. They keep warm by doing the basics: layering their clothes, wearing waterproof shoes and keeping hand warmers tucked in their pockets when they’re outside.
But the best tip is one that Mr. Schreck picked up during his childhood in Minnesota. “We would be outside running around in the winter, and we’d go into Laundromats and throw our coats in the dryer to warm them up, then go play again,” he said.
His dog walkers do the same — assuming clients don’t mind — and give their coats a brief warm-up in the dryer before heading outside for a walk.
Keep the heat off? Seriously.
This tip isn’t for everybody. But Fabian Quintana, a FedEx driver who was out delivering packages in Chicago on Tuesday afternoon, says that he believes it’s healthier not to run the heat in his truck while he’s on the job.
Pointing to his open windows, Mr. Quintana, who was also wearing three layers of shirts and a heavy pair of snow pants, said it was consistent temperature that helped him cope with the weather.
“I see other guys who have the heat blasting and the windows closed, and they’re in and out of the cold, and they get sick,” he said. “I’ve been doing this five years, and I’ve never gotten sick.”
[Looking for an escape from the cold? Here’s a list of travel stories about warm-weather destinations and activities.]