Matt Tyrrell shovels snow Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2003, from the roof of his family's home in Kenai, Alaska, earlier this week as Ashley Thornton watches from the comfort of the living room below. The Kenai area received several inches of snowfall this week.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
If you’re going to take a job that involves outdoor work in Alaska, you’d better enjoy being outdoors because no matter what the weather is, you’re going to be out in it.
“I’ve really enjoyed it,” said Bill Forbes, a line foreman for Homer Electric Association. “There’s days when it’s pouring rain, you kind of wonder, but you don your rain gear and get after it.”
Forbes, who has worked as a lineman and line foreman with HEA for 20 years, said working outside in the winter is one of the interesting aspects of his job, which involves building, maintaining and repairing overhead and underground electric lines.
“You may use snowshoes, a snowmachine, or a tracked rig, or if you’re down in Homer, a helicopter,” Forbes said of the methods crews use to get to job sites.
The nastier the winter weather, the more likely HEA crews are to be out in it. After all, it’s heavy snows and high winds hat do the most damage power lines.
Forbes dresses in layers to work comfortably in the cold.
“I wear Carhartts. I layer up underneath a long-sleeve tee, flannel shirt, wool socks just layer up in your clothing,” Forbes said.
Some of his work requires removing his gloves, which he tries to avoid if he can.
“We try to keep them on as much as possible. We’ve got some decent leather lined gloves that work pretty well,” he said.
Forbes said he typically has two pairs of gloves on hand the pair he’s wearing and a second pair he keeps on the dashboard of his truck.
Frostbite also is a concern, and Forbes said he always takes wind chill factor into consideration as he plans his day. The most uncomfortable conditions to work in are the bitter cold days when the wind picks up, he said.
“With the wind blowing on you, it’s really hard to stay warm. You can’t get enough cover on your face and body,” Forbes said. “You get out, do your work and get back in the cab of your truck when you’re cold. You do a little bit at a time.”
Still, Forbes said if he’s not out working in the elements, he likes to be out playing in them. His has outfitted his family with snowmachines, and they frequently cruise out to the Caribou Hills.
“I like to play in it, too,” Forbes said. “You get used to it. You plan for it and go out and have fun.”
Will Morrow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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