On the 4th, no holiday from Minnesota's scorching heat

  • Article by: ASHA ANCHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 3, 2012 - 11:38 PM

Many Minnesotans appeared to resign themselves Tuesday to a long stretch of oppressive heat, made more bearable, perhaps, by the midweek holiday.

At many metro venues, continuing highs in the upper 90s or beyond Wednesday means it won't quite be holiday business as usual.

Canterbury Park officials announced that live racing and other festivities originally scheduled for Wednesday will be canceled because of the heat and rescheduled for Saturday. "The health of both our equine and human athletes as well as our race fans is always our primary concern," President Randy Sampson said.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board said it will close any rec center without air conditioning and cancel youth sports games whenever the heat index reaches 105 degrees.

With Tuesday's high in the metro hitting 97 -- and feeling like 106 -- most Twin Cities residents retreated to air-conditioned offices and homes. But for some, staying in the heat was a job requirement.

Here's a look at how folks in some of the metro area's hottest jobs coped on Tuesday.

Downtown: 400 degrees!

For Merry Schweitzer, the only thing hotter than the weather was the 400-degree liquid asphalt she was painting into a trench at the corner of Washington and Hennepin Avenues.

Working with hot materials means Schweitzer has to take precautions in the form of extra layers of clothing -- nonbreathable white pants over her jeans and thick gloves that extend up to her elbows.

But 19 years of experience working outdoors has made her take work in small segments. "You gotta pace yourself," she said.

Schweitzer said she and the road crew take a lot of water and rest breaks.

On the same block, Tyler Lafferty, another worker, said hot days make him wish he was sitting in an air-conditioned office. "Instantly, from the time you get on the job site you're sweating," he said.

Dousing his head with water and wearing cut-off shirts help keep him cool on a sweltering day.

Downtown: 115 degrees

Rodney Harrill drives a lime-green ATLV 4300, an oversized vacuum cleaner for downtown area sidewalks and a part of the Downtown Improvement District cleanup gear.

Inside the vehicle, it can reach around 115 degrees, with most of the heat coming from a diesel engine behind his seat. But Harrill said his North Carolina roots help him cope.

"I'd much rather be outside than at a desk or in a cubicle," he said. "The heat elements make my job more challenging at times, but it also makes it more interesting."

He drinks water every 20 minutes and eats lots of fruits and vegetables.

"I think you just have to use common sense and listen to your body," he said.

Day camp: Water all the time

The 70 percent shade cover at Camp Kici Yapi in Prior Lake provides cool spots for the campers, counselors and 52 horses.

The YMCA day camp uses water games, the pool, shaded areas and hoses to keep the campers cool and still maintain a fun atmosphere on extremely hot days. Staff members constantly check that campers are drinking water and applying sunscreen.

Spraying down the cement around the pool to keep it cool and playing games like Drip, Drip, Splash (the water version of Duck, Duck, Gray Duck) are little ways to keep the 400 campers and 100 staff members safe from heat stroke.

Kici Yapi is one of 10 day camps put on by the YMCA. With 13,000 to 14,000 kids going to day camp each summer, a lot of responsibility is placed on the YMCA to keep these children happy and safe.

"The beauty of summer in Minnesota is that we have two months to enjoy the outdoors," said Benjamin Theisen Escobar, program director. "[But] our job at camp is to make sure camp is a safe place."

Shakopee: Pouring concrete

A few miles away, in Shakopee, foremen Jamie Hedberg and Rob Smerillo of Gopher State Concrete finished pouring concrete for a house foundation.

In Tuesday's heat, their work took twice as long because they had to pace themselves and keep a close eye on their workers. They know heat exhaustion can come very quickly, even among the strongest.

"Everyone wants to be tough," said Hedberg. "I tell them you can be honest and go in the truck and get some air conditioning."

Pouring concrete was the easy part. Lifting and moving 100-pound aluminum forms was the exhausting work. It needed to be done in one day, despite the heat.

"If we get behind, things get screwed up," Smerillo said. "Later in the day everything starts taking more time. It's like you can't think as fast."

Asha Anchan • 612-673-4154

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