EUCLID, Ohio - Steve Gombach wielded a sledge hammer on icy, treated decking boards with new gloves early Thursday.
Gombach is the hands-on assistant manager at the Lakeland Lumber Company on Lakeland Boulevard, right off Interstate 90 at the Babbit Road exit. Ready for the brutal wind's chill with two heavy, hooded-sweatshirts, he was layered for an extra cold day Thursday.
With a wind chill factor in the low teens, Gombach is used to Lake Erie's Canadian wind-swept influence.
"Right now, the wind is not too high, so the hat and the one hood is enough to keep your neck warm, and not allowing the chills to cause a stiff neck," Gombach said.
Lakeland Lumber is a busy mom-and-pop-sized operation, but Gombach's new gloves were purchased grudgingly at one of their nationwide-sized competitors. But, warm, dry hands are a crucial necessity to keep lumber sales operations from coming to a frigid standstill in this part of Euclid.
"I have a pair of the FG gloves with Thinsulate. They keep your hands pretty warm, keep them pretty mobile and keeps your fingers loose," Gombach said.
Just a few blocks west, along the busy Thursday morning I-90 traffic, veteran ODOT highway technician Doug Nenandovich tended to a chain-link fence ripped apart from a recent car crash. The strong fence kept the car from crashing onto eastbound Lakeland Boulevard traffic. The only victims appeared to be a few fence poles.
Nenandovich attended to the fence with gray, thick, leather work gloves with long, sewn-in, wind protection for his wrists. His crew of men and women had a mix of those dedicated to ear protection and those who were trying to tough it out under their hard hats.
Nenandovich's gloves allowed his fingers to be nimble enough for the tedious job at hand.
"We needed these, without them we would be frostbit," Nenandovich said. "Otherwise, you can't feel your hands to do the work."
ODOT public information officer Mark Ziaja says crews are a hearty bunch. He stressed that keeping exposed skin to a minimum is a must, regardless of the temperature year-round.
"Working in northeast Ohio you run the gamut. You got about a hundred-degree temperature swing, from 90 degrees plus to 10 below zero. This time of year we're fighting the cold and those elements are not only difficult on the people, but of course our equipment also, so the cold weather is tough on everything," Ziaja said.
"Like most people in northeast Ohio you've got to be tough and we think we're tough," added Ziaja.
"There's more to preparing for the cold weather than just the layered clothing. Proper nutrition is important, and one thing that we found, and I think a lot of people don't realize, is hydration is real important in this type of weather. We know it's important in the summertime, but it's also important in winter and we stress that with our people."
NewsChannel5 meteorologist Mark Johnson also stressed that exposed skin can be subjected to frostbite in less than 20 minutes at the temperature and wind chill factors northeastern Ohio is now experiencing.