Outside workers battle the elements on the job

Outside workers battle the elements on the job


by TONY BURBECK / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @TonyWCNC


Posted on January 24, 2014 at 7:49 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 24 at 8:32 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Thousands of people who work outside for a living spent the day just trying to keep warm in Friday's frigid temperatures.

It wasn't easy.

It took only minutes for hands and feet to start feeling numb with temperatures in the teens and 20s.

Even folks who work outside are used to the rough elements say Friday was old.

Now, imagine catering a picnic lunch on the bitter but clear blue sky day.

That's what SMS Catering Services did for hundreds of construction workers topping off a new apartment complex in uptown.

"Very cold out here today," said Tony White, one of the caterers.

Steam from a tray full of Carolina pork barbecue gave White a little bit of warmth.

"Basically that's what it is," he said.

His thin plastic food prep gloves weren't enough to keep his hands toasty.

But the construction workers have it worse.

"You can't move all fast," Donovan Dukes said about trying to keep warm while working.

Some employees are working on the 12th floor, others on the 22nd.

"The higher you are the colder it gets," said Derek Stephenson, who dressed in layers and was still cold.

Up that high in the air at a construction site means the comforts of home and the indoors don't exist.

Crews came up with a plan. They warmed themselves on one of two heaters for a few minutes every half-hour, and then went back to work.

So imagine how good hot food felt in cold bellies.

"You can work a whole lot better with that," Dukes said.

Hot sauce was in demand. Ice was not. Workers took their food into a heated tent.

After lunch it was back into the freeze.