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Tow Truck Drivers, Plumbers Put To Work By South's Cold Front

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It's been brutally cold in most of the U.S., and in some parts of the country, dealing with this kind of cold is not normal.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

We're talking about the South. Temps there are in the single digits. Some are even below zero.

CORNISH: We decided to check in with a few people to find out how they're doing in this weather.

MCEVERS: Kevin Estes is having a busy week. He's a tow truck driver. He owns Doug's Towing and Recovery in the Elizabethtown, Ky. First question, Kevin - who's Doug?

KEVIN ESTES: My dad.

MCEVERS: Oh, cool. And so I bet you've had a pretty intense week. How many vehicles do you think you've towed?

ESTES: Oh, I would say at least four to 500.

MCEVERS: Oh my gosh. So tell me what your day is like. When do you wake up? How does it work?

ESTES: We don't go to sleep because, as we know, the temperatures are so cold, you can't leave anybody out.

MCEVERS: What are you seeing mostly? Is it people just getting stuck on the side of the road having run off the road or their engines can't start, or is it the whole gamut?

ESTES: It's the whole thing. If they were lucky enough to get off without a nice dent, they parked, and then the next day they couldn't get out of where they parked.

MCEVERS: (Laughter) Oh, God. How are you staying awake? I would imagine lots of strong coffee or you'd just, like, be past that - it doesn't even work anymore.

ESTES: I am a Pepsi drinker, and a large Pepsi drinker.

(LAUGHTER)

MCEVERS: So, like, a Big Gulp situation.

ESTES: That's right. That's exactly right.

MCEVERS: Well, Kevin Estes, thanks so much for talking with us, and I hope you get some sleep at some point.

ESTES: Thank you very much.

MCEVERS: So it's not just people who are called out there. Think about the horses and what they're going through. Eric Reed is a horse trainer at the Mercury Equine Center in Lexington, Ky. Eric, tell us what's going on with your animals.

ERIC REED: Well, right now, they're locked in the stalls. We've got some heat lamps on them to try to take a little bit of the bite out of the air, but they're a little stir crazy. They're not used to this.

MCEVERS: Huh - I was going to say, what does a stir crazy horse act like?

REED: You know, the first day or two they were a little quiet. They were conserving some heat. By the second day, you know, they want out of that stall. Their energy levels are high anyway because they're in training. They're athletes. They'll kick the walls. They'll run around the stall in circles a little bit. They're being as tolerable as they can, but you have to feel for them because they're not used to being locked up like this.

MCEVERS: So, any sense of when this is going to end?

REED: (Laughter) Another winter storm warning is out right now - says possibly an ice storm. It's a nightmare if we have an ice storm, so hopefully we won't.

MCEVERS: Well, Eric Reed, best of luck to you, and try to stay warm.

REED: Thank you so much.

MCEVERS: Well, in Kentucky, it sounds like the worst weather is yet to come. In other places, the trouble starts when the ice melts. That's when plumbers like Ed Bodenheimer get the call. He's in Winston-Salem, N.C. And Ed, it's warming up a little down there - 20 degrees and going up. Is that right?

ED BODENHEIMER: Feels a lot better than it did 5:30 this morning when I left the house.

MCEVERS: All right. Why is that a problem?

BODENHEIMER: The buildings in North Carolina aren't designed for that severe cold. We can get some issues with the plumbing system where it freezes the water piping.

MCEVERS: So it's bad for the customers, good for business, I guess.

BODENHEIMER: Well, it really wears on our technicians. They'll work 18 hours a day the next three or four days. You know, we've got customers that we've worked for for four generations, and you hate to see anything like that happen to them.

MCEVERS: I mean, is there anything you can do to prevent it from happening?

BODENHEIMER: The key is to keep the cold out.

MCEVERS: Wow. Well, Ed Bodenheimer, thanks so much for the advice, and we hope you guys get to rest at some point.

BODENHEIMER: We will. We've rode this pony before, and it's not a nice ride, but we'll get through it.

MCEVERS: Ed Bodenheimer lives in Winston-Salem, N.C. We also heard from two other people dealing with unusual cold, Eric Reed and Kevin Estes, both in Kentucky. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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