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Cold spell persists

January 23, 2003|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

As a crossing guard at Paramount Elementary School, Cindy Pitsnogle has learned to deal with all kinds of weather.

She's even developed her own dressing ritual for cold mornings like those she's faced for more than a week now.

"I usually wear a couple of pairs of long johns," she said Wednesday, when the low temperature in Hagerstown dipped to 9 degrees. "This morning, I had on three pairs."

Pitsnogle adds wool socks, a hooded sweatshirt, a second sweatshirt, black uniform pants, a scarf, a hat, insulated boots and two pairs of mittens.

"It's a little bit awkward," she said, "but it works. Although you feel like the Pillsbury Doughboy."

Wednesday's temperatures were the lowest so far this winter, and today won't be an improvement, with highs only in the mid-teens, according to the National Weather Service. Snow showers could develop today, and temperatures will fall to around 10 degrees tonight.

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The weather service says arctic high pressure from central Canada is responsible for the low temperatures.

Although Hagerstown officials reported a few water main breaks, Washington County reports "no substantial problems due to cold weather this year," according to Greg Murray, director of water and sewer operations for the county.

"We have had water main breaks due to cold temperatures in past years," Murray said, but workers took preventive measures to avoid the problem this year. "That's not to say it couldn't happen again," he said.

There's little comfort in the forecast for people who have to work outside, most of whom find the best defense is to learn to cope with the cold.

"We mostly put on extra clothes to get warm," said Ralph Dick, a driver for BFI. "The main thing is to dress warm enough and try to keep moving. You get cold when you're just standing around."

Sara Mason, a crossing guard at Fountaindale Elementary School, said the cold doesn't bother her much.

"I don't mind working outside," she said. "Being out in the weather keeps you healthier."

Ron Miller, a letter carrier with the United States Postal Service, said the best way to keep warm is to "keep moving."

Coping with the cold is something of a science for Hagerstown Police Sgt. Jim Hurd.

"The first time you freeze, you start reading up on it to find out how to stay warm," he said.

When the temperatures start to dip, he adds layers of clothes. The first layer, he said, should work moisture away from the body. The second layer should be loose. Finally, an outer garment should stop the wind and the elements, he said. And definitely cover the ears. Even better, cover the whole head, he said.

"That's where you lose the most body heat," he said.

Hagerstown Public Works Manager Eric Dieke said he has about 40 or 42 workers who work outside but who usually get indoor assignments when the weather is so cold.

"After the parks are officially closed, we gather up things like park benches and bring them in. (The workers) repair things on days like this.

"But most of them have worked outside most of their lives," he said. "They have a lot of common sense. They're gonna come dressed for the weather."

Pete Talbert, a lineman for the Hagerstown Light Department, agreed.

"We're used to it. We work in all kinds of weather," he said. "We really have more trouble in the summer."

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