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Winter workers weather the weather

Jan. 20—This week's cold temperatures and snowy conditions might make some want to stay inside where it's warm and dry.

Temperatures earlier this week dipped down into single digits as winter started to crank up.

For those who toil outside, dealing with winter weather is just part of the job.

"Layers of clothing" was a common response when asking local outdoor workers the key to staying warm.

"You've got to have layers," Doug Sekerski, a tow truck operator and owner of Autoworx Service Center in Meadville, said.

Sekerski said he always has to be ready to go out in his truck in the worst weather — especially if it's in the middle of a winter night with the temperature near zero or below.

"I'm getting called because something has happened somewhere to somebody and their vehicle," he said. "A lot of times, you're down on your hands and knees or digging out snow to crawl under a vehicle to hook up a line. "I've got plastic tarps to lie on so I don't get wet. I have a change of gloves and a change of boots with me, too."

Harry Getty and Elizabeth Lelko have outdoor jobs with more regular hours than being a tow truck driver, but they know the value of layering up for the cold.

Getty, a letter carrier for 20 years, said he does not mind winter weather.

"I'm good because I move," Getty said. "As long as you keep your feet warm, your hands warm and (have) a hat to keep your head warm, you're good."

"You need good dry shoes, too," he said. "I have Gore-Tex boots because they keep the water out."

Lelko has worked part-time as a school crossing guard in Meadville for the past three years.

"I've got on Alpaca (wool) socks and good insulated underwear," Lelko said with a laugh when asked how she prepares for the weather. "I worked landscaping for 13 years, so I'm used to it."

A full-time, third-shift worker in Saegertown, she braves the elements as a crossing guard as she gets a kick out of the school children.

"I have fun with them seeing them in the morning and the afternoon," she said. "It's the enjoyment on the kids' faces when they cross as I'm like 'Gimme a high-five.' That's what makes my day."

But dealing with snow is better than rain.

"Forty degrees and rain — you just get wet and cold," Getty said. "I like the snow because you don't get wet."

"The worst is rain (in the winter). If you get wet, you can't get warm," Lelko said.

Sekerski agreed with Lelko that sometimes the job's benefits outweigh the cost.

"Do I grumble when the phone rings at 2 a.m. (and it's snowing or raining)? Yes," Sekerski said. "The job can be challenging, but in the long-run, I'm going to help somebody out, and I enjoy what I do."

Keith Gushard can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.