Temperatures in triple digits make it tough for workers to beat the heat
by: Vern Uyetake, Dan Dyke of Snyder Roofing rolls out roofing material on top of the Lake Oswego School District Administration building on Monday.  Dyke and four other employees re-roofed the building during the recent heat wave.


Staff Reporters

The temperatures rise. Kids flock to local swimming holes. Parents crank up the home air conditioners. And outdoor work crews show no signs of slowing.

But what is it like to work outside all day in hot weather -especially in Oregon, where much of the year is overcast and rainy, and where residents aren't used to the soaring heat?

Is there any relief during the day for folks who labor outdoors? Especially when temperatures hit triple digits as they did several times since last Friday.

Last week a sampling of workers around Lake Oswego and West Linn shared what it's like to swelter all day working under the sun.

n While Lake Oswego School District administrators sit inside their air-conditioned building making big plans for the upcoming school year, a five-man crew braves sweltering heat above them to resurface the roof.

The week-long project just happened to fall during the hottest part of summer, leaving the workers praying for the relief of a slight breeze or the shadow of a passing cloud.

'It's the worst. The absolute worst,' said Dan Dyke, an employee of Snyder Roofing in Tigard.

Though they come to work in jeans and long-sleeved shirts, the men have several secret weapons they use to make it through a 10-hour work day while standing on a black surface.

Must-haves include sunblock, wrap-around shades, a cooler of cold (but not too cold) water and a sense of humor.

'Sometimes, you gotta bear it,' Dyke said, noting the need to use the heat as the butt of jokes. 'We have a tendency to take breaks often on these kinds of days just to be safe. You could pass out.'

n Bobbing along on Oswego Lake, members of Lake Oswego South Shore Fire Station's Search and Rescue team agonized under the merciless sun on their speed boat.

Russ Thackery, tending a line for a diver below, handed bottles of water from the cooler to crew members on board.

'So we can stay hydrated,' he said.

When asked why he didn't chug one himself, he chuckled, 'I drank a couple gallons of water this morning - I had to go to the bathroom four or five times.'

As dive team director Troy Baney climbed out of Oswego Lake after a 10-minute training exercise, pulling his black scuba mask off and throwing his flippers onto the deck, he noticed the 104-degree heat.

Opening the cooler to pour a bottle over his head, Baney washed the sweat and specks of algae off his face.

'Man it's hot,' he said.

n It's the days when the sun is high in a bright blue sky that make landscaper Rick Serazin appreciate his job.

It also makes Serazin, a sun worshipper, not want to work at all.

'Personally, I think we should all take holidays when it's over 100 degrees,' he said with a chuckle.

As the co-owner of the West Linn-based Tsuga Gardens and Design, Serazin spends his summer days perfecting the lawns of Lake Oswego and West Linn homes.

That means lugging heavy trees and plants up hills, digging holes and moving large rocks to form an aesthetically designed yard.

Serazin tries to wear a hat, cover himself in sunblock and work mostly in the shade. He finds that the moist ground and surrounding plants make his job cooler than those in urban areas.

It's the next best thing to lying out by the river, he said.

'Even when it's like this, the thought of holing yourself up in an air-conditioned house does not appeal to me at all. I'd rather play in the water … I love the heat.'

The real challenge, he added, is keeping the plants - not himself - hydrated.

n Starting at 7 a.m., Rebecca Dondlinger begins a workday in West Linn, holding a 'slow' sign so motorists can safely maneuver behind the West Linn Central Village shopping center project in Bolton.

Dressed in pants, closed-toe boots, a sleeved shirt and hardhat, Dondlinger says she tries not to think about how much mercury is rising on the thermometer as hours tick by.

'I try to drink a lot of water. That's really my only option. When it's overwhelming, I fantasize about doing something else,' said Don-dlinger.

Spending typically 10 hours in the sun, Dondlinger says she stimulates her mind while directing traffic.

'I usually write stories in my head. I'm a puppeteer with Flying Fox Puppet Theatre in Portland,' she said. 'When I go home I write the (stories) down.'

n Repairing a homeowner's storm drain mid-day late last week, Seth Kenworthy wipes beads of sweat off his brow. He glances up at the sun and then back at his crew. Hot days, he says, speed up the day.

'(The objective is to) work quicker than normal,' said Kenworthy, with Drainage Masters.

Spending time in a trench near West Linn High School, he says the small crew tries to remain hydrated when repairing the piping.

'(We drink) lots of water and try to head out early and stay in the shade when we can. Basically, just try to get done as quick as we can,' said Kenworthy.

n An Exel delivery truck stops near Hidden Springs Road in West Linn. Three men launch out of the vehicle and run to open the back door of the truck. A homeowner stands in his entryway, awaiting his new furniture.

Plastic is ripped from each end of the plush, gray Pottery Barn couch as it is lowered onto the street. Seconds later, the couch is paraded up the stairs into its new home. The workers finally feel an ounce of relief.

'Our customers sometimes have a little air conditioning (in their homes) and then it's back outside,' said the driver. 'The best (working weather) is when it's a little bit cloudy.'

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