Some can’t take snow days
Many have to venture out in freezing temps and on icy, snowpacked roads.
Many Coloradans avoided Saturday’s cold temperatures by staying tucked indoors, drinking hot chocolate and perhaps watching their favorite holiday movie while being hugged by a snuggie.
But for some, such as Denver’s fire, airport and postal workers, the job doesn’t stop just because of a little snow and subzero temperatures.
“That’s one of the expectations that’s set early on in our careers,” Denver fire spokeswoman Melissa Taylor said. “We have to be there no matter what.”
Between 6 and 8 inches of snow fell on Denver overnight Friday, according to the National Weather Service. And although the storm wound down Saturday, temperatures stuck around zero and began falling again after dark, with the temperature at Denver International Airport hitting 14 below zero just before 6 p.m., breaking the record low for the date set in 1909. Earlier, Denver set a record for the coldest high on that date, at 3 degrees, beating the previous Dec. 17 record of 7 degrees, set in 1884.
Denver’s snowfall may seem puny in
comparison to the 12-18 inches the National Weather Service said dumped on the west-facing mountains above 10,000 feet, but it still put a wrench in some people’s plans.
Airlines canceled more than 300 flights Saturday, making up roughly 20 percent of Denver International Airport’s 1,500 daily flights. And for those who decided to stay in the city, Colorado Department of Transportation warned them to avoid the snowpacked and icy roads by staying home.
But a snow day wasn’t on the table for everyone..
“When you’re involved in the Postal Service, you’re on your best,” U.S. Postal Service spokesman David Rupert said. “You’re eating your Wheaties, you’re tightening your boots. This is prime time for us.”
The USPS has nearly 240 years of tradition that won’t be stopped by a snowstorm, especially during the busy season, Rupert said. The service plans to deliver 400,000 packages Sunday, many of which are presents for the holidays.
“In this time of year, (postal workers) don’t just do it for a paycheck,” Rupert said. “We do it really for a higher cause in mind. We know that we’re charged with delivering cheer. A lot of people are counting on us to complete their Christmases.”
He said that as long as roads are open, the Postal Service delivers mail. The only time people are taken off the road is in the case of a blizzard that would risk employees safety.
Similarly, airport employees don’t stop because of rough weather conditions, the exception being March’s blizzard that forced the airport to temporarily shut down, DIA spokesman Heath Montgomery said.
“The only real conditions that we pull people from the ramp would be for lightning,” Montgomery said. “That’s a safety issue.”
The airport had to bring in more workers than planned to clear roadways and plow airfields Friday night when the actual snowfall doubled forecasts, DIA spokesman Heath Montgomery said.
The fire department, too, can’t take a break. Instead, fire crews put on tire chains when necessary and continue to handle calls as usual, including those for falls and car crashes that tend to crop up more during this time of year.
And although Taylor said it’s better for fewer people to be driving on the streets in the snow, she said they should step outside of their warm homes quickly to shovel the sidewalks, especially for their elderly neighbors. That way, it’s easier for responders to transport people from their homes quickly instead of wading through piles of snow with a stretcher.
“The nice thing about this particular (storm) being on a weekend: Hopefully, if people don’t have to get out, they’ll choose not to,” Taylor said.
U.S. Postal Service mail carrier Milton Espinosa braves snow and bitter cold temperatures near South Jackson Street and East Wesley Avenue in Denver on Saturday.