Weather Updates

In search of some cold hard facts

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Updated: February 8, 2014 6:22AM

Everyone, and everything, was struggling Monday with inhumane temperatures that hit the negative double digits.

Even my house was groaning in protest, making strange popping noises when I awoke to let me know these conditions were dire.

Which made me wonder who in their right mind would venture out into this weather unless they absolutely had to. And why?

It’s no surprise even my car was making all sorts of weird sounds as I backed it out of the garage in my quest to answer those questions.

First, I needed some gas, since I’d read just that morning about the importance of having a full tank in these frigid conditions.

Unfortunately, that’s where I also encountered my first challenge: the pump at the Citgo station on Route 47 in Sugar Grove wasn’t working. Nor were my now-numb appendages as I stood helplessly in the shadow of the nearby bank clock that registered a cool 20 below zero.

That’s when Citgo employee and self-professed car expert Larry Brown came to my rescue. He not only helped me get fuel in my near-empty tank, he strongly advised I fill it to the top to avoid any issues down the road.

Speaking of down the road ... I decided to stop at the Walgreens on Galena Boulevard in Aurora to find out who was strolling the aisles there ... and why. That’s where I met Auroran Frank Szabo, a retired toolmaker and soccer coach who had ventured into this dangerous weather, not to pick up a life-saving prescription at the pharmacy, but to take advantage of a super sale on eggs the drug store was running.

At 99 cents a dozen, who wouldn’t risk frostbite.

“I’ve seen a lot in my life ... I’m not a wuss,” said the Hungarian immigrant who came to this country at age 18 to escape Nazi oppression. “Besides, I had to make sure my wife had eggs to cook with. It made sense to come when they are on sale.”

Aurora Police Officer Brian Hester, who resembled a hulking Yukon trapper when he stepped out of his truck, was at Walgreens because, in my opinion, he’s the greatest son-in-law in the county.

His wife’s dad, Wayne Merkle, who lives with them, wanted Halls cough drops that morning, he told me.

“He’s 93 years old,” the firearms master instructor added. “If he wants Halls cough drops, then I’m going to get them for him.”

While in the warmth of the store, I had a nice chat with Szabo about his amazing life as an immigrant and about our country’s current political climate. And I also had an interesting conversation with Officer Hester about how this kind of weather can make for a perilous shift for law enforcement.

But my most entertaining part of this Nordic assignment occurred later while watching the sales staff at the Hyundai dealership in North Aurora dig cars out. About a dozen men, also resembling Yukon trappers, seemed to be having a heckuva time as one after another they shoveled, pushed, pulled and backed packed-in new and used vehicles out of snow banks.

“You have to do this with every car out here?” I asked Sales Manager Mike Chino as the white stuff was flying, tires were squealing and employees were slip-slip-sliding.

“Yep. Every one,” he replied, “Including all the cars on the other side of the lot.”

The men assured me they were layered enough to get the job — we’re talking hundreds of cars here — done safely. And from all the laughing and horseplay going on, it was obvious this crew was making the most of a less than pleasant situation.

As were a couple of younger brave hearts I encountered on this icy adventure. Ricky Donatlan, 12, and his buddy Elijah Beauchamp, students at Jefferson Middle School, were pedaling their bikes while holding onto shovels when I caught up with them in downtown Aurora, taking advantage of cancelled school to shovel sidewalks and driveways for cold hard cash.

“We have already made $50,” said a proud Beauchamp, his voice muffled by the stocking mask he was wearing.

“We have gloves and hats to keep us warm,” declared Donatlan.

“And we just ate burritos at McDonald’s so our stomachs are full,” added his friend.

Ahh, youth. I watched them pedal away with concern, my own hands now burning in pain at the few minutes they were exposed to the elements.

I was more than ready to come in from the cold. I felt what I needed to feel. Saw what I needed to see: That ordinary people still do ordinary things in extraordinary conditions.

Now feeling has come back to my appendages, and I’m all settled in for a toasty evening and comforting dinner: a nice cheese and tomato omelet.

Turns out I couldn’t pass on that super sale either.

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