Cleaning up debris in the high temps - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Cleaning up debris in the high temps

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Chattanooga Public Works employees have handled this burst of near 90 degree heat pretty well. It's an uncomfortable situation for them, but they're doing everything they can to stay safe so they can continue working extra hours cleaning up what the recent tornadoes left behind. 

"It's just hot! It's hot!" exclaimed Arthur Snyder, a crew supervisor with the Chattanooga Public Works Department.

That's been the lament of Chattanooga Public Works employees the past few days as they've battled unusual 90 degree heat in early may.

Deputy Administrator Lee Norris says his employees are used to temperature extremes, but he isn't taking any chances when it comes to preparation.

"We have safety briefings about the climate," said Norris.

The advice he doles out sounds familiar but it's taken seriously.

"Drink plenty of water. Just pace yourself when you're out there," explained Norris. "Supervisors periodically check crews out working."

Large water cans and plenty of ice are provided for the 20 or so crews working overtime collecting and processing brush and fallen trees left over from the April 27th tornadoes. The more liquid refreshment available the better.

"We have a two gallon water keg and a five gallon water keg," said Snyder. "So we got plenty of water, and we all chip in and buy Gatorade or whatever we need."

Snyder also said this unusual heat dries out the brush and presents another danger besides human dehydration.

"The brush is hard to pick up. It's all tangled up. You just have to be careful about what you're doing," explained Snyder.

The department has a good track record. Norris says his crews haven't suffered anything other than a little fatigue in his ten years on the job.

"We have had some people [who] what we call "get squeezed by the bear" when they get just a little overworked," said Norris.

Norris said that's when he urges workers to simply take a quick break.

The debris left behind by the tornadoes also has the equipment working overtime in the heat, but if the only issue turns out to be a mechanical problem, Norris is fine with that.

"I can fix equipment a lot easier than I can fix employees," said Norris.

Public works will continue to work overtime for a while. That includes twelve hour days Monday through Thursday and ten hours Fridays and Saturdays to pick up brush and trees from everyone's curbsides.

Snyder says a Sunday shift might be added but that hasn't been decided yet.

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