JOHNSBURG – Beads of sweat rolled off Tom Flanagan’s forehead recently as he labored outside under the beating sun on Johnsburg Road and Route 31.
Flanagan and Steve Mulder, a fellow perspiring co-worker, were installing piping for an underground storage tank outside of an empty Marathon gas station scheduled to open by the end of the month.
The workers were doing their job on a day when the National Weather Service had issued a heat advisory for the area. The high temperatures were expected to climb to or surpass 100 degrees.
Earlier this month, the service issued a heat advisory that remained in effect for a week, with heat indexes ranging from 100 to 113 degrees. During these advisories, people are advised to stay inside where it is cool and drink plenty of water.
The heat index is a measure of how hot it feels when humidity is combined with actual air temperature.
Meanwhile, the contractors from DRW Services of Chicago Heights took the conditions in stride.
“What heat?” Flanagan said. “It’s not that bad. Just drink lots of water, use common sense. Stay in the shade as much as you can and get good rest at night.
“And don’t consume a lot of alcohol.”
Still, Flanagan prefers the wintry chill than the sweltering heat when it comes to his working conditions.
“In the colder weather, you can always put on more clothes,” said Flanagan, of Elmhurst. “In this, you can be bare-skinned and nothing [helps].”
“I’d agree with him,” Mulder said. “There ain’t too much to cool inside.”
Rain or shine, postal carriers, construction workers and landscapers are just some in the workforce who get used to braving the elements.
Preparation and precaution come with occupations that require workers to spend long hours outside. With the summer’s sizzling weather, the critical safety factor is staying hydrated on the job.
“We tell our guys to try to watch how much coffee they drink. Drink plenty of water, Gatorade,” said Lt. Brendan Parker of the Woodstock Fire/Rescue District.
Hazardous conditions come with the territory for firefighters regardless of the weather.
Dealing with a fire – while wearing heavy uniforms and gear – can cause perspiration to turn into steam, leading to burn injuries for firefighters, Parker said. Extreme weather exacerbates the danger.
About 10 p.m. in early July, Woodstock fire crews were sent to Lakewood to respond to two haystack fires. Earlier that day, the weather service issued a heat advisory.
“The sun being gone can be [a] huge [benefit],” Parker said. “But the night was still humid, and our guys got fatigued pretty quick.”
In hot weather, aside from a well-stocked supply of bottled water, “the rehab unit is pretty vital,” Parker said.
The rehab unit, also referred to as the squad, is sent with the engine squad whenever there’s a structure fire. The air-conditioned unit – which includes 10 tents, a freezer and misting fans – is on scene to assist firefighters during and immediately after the job, Parker said.
Over at the Woodstock Square, Randy Book of Belvidere stayed as cool as possible under a tent canopy throughout the morning and early afternoon. Book and his family travel to six farmers markets to sell vegetable crops, including beans, squash and corn grown at their three-acre Providence Farm.
“This is easy compared to going out in the fields, with the drought and everything being pretty hot,” Book said.
Book frequently sprays mists of water on the leaf vegetables to keep them from wilting. Then he sprays himself.
“It helps on a day like this.”
Today: Partly sunny and hot, with a chance of isolated storms. High of 99 degrees with a low of 77.
Tuesday: Mostly cloudy with scattered storms. High of 84 degrees with a low of 73.