Sub-zero temps to linger into Thursday

Hannibal finds itself enduring some of the coldest temperatures that residents have experienced in years. Despite the frigid conditions, some city workers are ready to labor outdoors if the need arises.

The Hannibal area will remain under a windchill warning until 9 a.m. Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. Actual temperatures are expected to stay below zero until Thursday.

The cold weather will limit, but not necessarily stop, city projects outside.

"During periods of extreme cold, the city doesn't restrict work efforts to emergency work only, but there are a number of outdoor assignments that cannot be completed under extreme conditions," said City Manager Jeff LaGarce.

The types of work that are carried out during bitter cold are not mandated by city or insurance guidelines.

"We apply common sense to the type of outdoor work that is performed under extreme conditions," LaGarce said. "We don't want anyone overexposed (to the cold). If the weather is too severe, a particular assignment can generally wait until temperatures warm unless it's some sort of emergency and must be completed now."

Among the city employees who are out regardless of the temperatures are street officers with the Hannibal Police Department (HPD).

To help keep officers warm they are provided gloves, stocking caps and winter coats as part of their normal uniform allotment, said Lyndell Davis, HPD chief.

Davis expects the number of calls for assistance to decline during times of extreme cold. An increase, however, may be seen in the number of disabled vehicle calls.

"Obviously if the vehicle is occupied, we will try to ascertain if there is any medical issues, otherwise we attempt to provide assistance by calling a tow service per their request, provide them a ride somewhere or provide a push to get them moving again," Davis said.

Police personnel are not just on the lookout for people to assist during this period of bitter cold.

"We are having our Community Service Officers be proactive about any animal left outdoors," Davis said. "Preferably we ask they be brought indoors. With temperatures ranging from single digits to below zero it is extremely harmful to the animals and we want everyone to take appropriate care of the animals under their control."

The Hannibal Board of Public Works (HBPW) is another branch of the city whose personnel could be out working regardless of the temperature.

"In extreme weather conditions, cold or hot, we attempt to limit routine activities or suspend them until the conditions are more favorable, but mostly for safety and efficiency reasons," said Heath Hall, general manager of the HBPW. "We do, however, continue to respond to customer issues like no water, a frozen meter or service, water leaks, no power or partial power, and of course sewer backups. We will always be available for these types of customer needs."

Safety measures are taken when HBPW workers respond to a call while it is bitterly cold.

"We have normal safety procedures and personal protective gear for working in extreme cold conditions," Hall said. "Sometimes we require two persons on each call for safety reasons during extreme weather or difficult driving conditions."

A common call for assistance during times of extreme cold is for a frozen water meter or service line. Hall said four such calls have been received since Jan. 21.

Water leaks are another common occurrence during the winter. "The back and forth of freeze and thaw causes us more issues than just the cold itself," Hall said.

While not a part of the city, personnel with the Marion County Ambulance District must contend with the cold as well, said John Nemes, EMS chief/director of the district.

"The extreme cold has a huge impact on patient care in many ways," he said. "Limiting the outside exposure when transporting or moving a patient is our primary concern, followed by the amount of exposure to our employees. We have to be very cognizant of that exposure time when treating a patient, as well as working hard to get them to a controlled environment as quickly as possible."

Nemes said that as the temperature drops the number of calls rises.

"We do typically see an increase in call volume during cold or inclement weather, especially for the homeless or those with limited shelter wanting to get out of the cold," he said.

Nemes said the public can help itself during times like this by being prepared.

"Knowing what the conditions are and taking a moment to pre-plan for the worst-case scenario can help prevent a lot," he said. "The best option for the extreme cold weather is to stay indoors and not venture outside anymore than you have to."

danny.henley@courierpost.com