No hiding from cold for these workers

01/23/2013 4:52 PM |
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Erek Berntsen cuts wood at a construction site near the Glass Greenhouse in Jamesport.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Construction worker Erek Berntsen near the Glass Greenhouse in Jamesport.

For most, even the easiest tasks become a hassle when temperatures start to drop.

But for many workers across the North Fork this week, being out in the cold is just part of the job.

“You can’t take a job outside and not expect to be out in the cold,” said Erek Berntsen, a construction worker at the Glass Greenhouse in Jamesport.

High temperatures reached 20 degrees on the North Fork Wednesday, about 10 to 15 degrees below normal, said Dan Hoffman, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Upton.

“The next 36 hours are going to be the coldest,” Mr. Hoffman said. Temperatures will slowly rise into the weekend, reaching the freezing point by Sunday, he said.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Herman Salazar trims grape vines at a vineyard in Jamesport Wednesday afternoon.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Herman Salazar trims grape vines at a vineyard in Jamesport Wednesday afternoon.

Mr. Berntsen had been out in the cold since 7 a.m., cutting pieces of wood to build the rafters of a new farm stand on the property.

A few miles east on Route 25, Bob Boergesson, a Mattituck-Cutchogue School District crossing guard, said wind is the biggest challenge he faces in the cold.

“Layers … [cover] up as much as you can,” he advised. “It’s the wind that gets you.”

On South Harbor Road in Southold, seven LIPA workers were found using a utility trucks to trim trees away from power wires.

“It is extremely cold,” conceded a LIPA foreman, who did not give his name. “Even colder up there.”

Despite the frigid temperatures, the foreman said worker morale is still high.

“We’re always good,” he said. “We complain, but we get the work done.”

At a local vineyard, laborer Emilio Jebier used a pruner to cut away dead vines from the trellis.

“Good vines means good selection [of grapes] for next year,” Mr. Jebier said while working at Jason’s Vineyard in Jamesport. Mr. Jebier has been tending to vines for 13 years, and said he’s used to working in the cold when he needs to.

Nearby, Herman Salazar of Mattituck was also clipping vines, a black ski mask covering his face from the bitter wind.

A group of half a dozen workers had been out at the vineyard  since 7 a.m. and will keep trimming until 4:30 p.m., Mr. Salazar said. The next day, they’ll do it all again. The group works six days a week in the field.

“The snow isn’t bad, the cold [is],” Mr. Salazar said, peeling the ski mask below his face. ”Today is very freezing.”

But some workers said this week’s cold weather wasn’t the worse they’ve experienced.

“This is nothing,” said a Suffolk County Water Authority worker on Route 25 in Cutchogue. “When you have a water main break, you’re out there for 24 hours straight in the cold.”

Their advice? Keep busy.

“Working a couple years in this, you get used to it,” said another worker.

psquire@timesreview.com

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