Numb-ers game

<p>Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images</p>

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

While residents headed to work and school in Naperville Thursday morning, the mercury groaned torturously above zero degrees Fahrenheit only negligibly. The temperature throughout the morning could be counted on the fingers of one hand, and the “feels like” figure hovered stubbornly subzero until lunchtime.

Although some might have wished they had donned more layers before venturing out, however, disruptions to routine caused by the brutal cold appeared minimal.

“Our (Public Works) crews will be keeping an eye out for drifting snow across roadways due to the cold and windy conditions but our roadways have been salted,” city spokeswoman Linda LaCloche said in a Wednesday afternoon email that also reported one water main break on Monday and one set of frozen pipes called in to the city on Tuesday.

When it comes to freezing temperatures, Naperville mailman Jaye Gamauf, who lives in Oak Lawn, is a real pro. For 25 years, he’s been delivering mail on foot and says that overall, “the cold is no big deal.”

“I wear extra layers, and these new fleece coats we have now are really warm,” Gamauf said as he made deliveries this week along Eagle Street. “I have snow pants when I need them, and if it’s really cold, I try not to think about it.”

Coping mechanisms for the cold ranged from stoking fires in the family fireplace and eating comfort foods to multi-layers of clothing or just plain resignation. Judy Nevara of Batavia was bundled up with her winter coat and a scarf around her neck Wednesday as she sipped a cup of hot chocolate in downtown Naperville.

“This is one of the ways I cope with the cold,” she said, sipping the cocoa. “I try to dress in layers. I moved back here to Batavia from Florida two years ago as I have seven grandchildren in the area, and I’m still not used to it. I try not to drive in this weather too much.”

Kelly Manderschied of Naperville and her 4-year-old daughter Anna were out doing some shopping together Wednesday, and although Kelly said she grew up in the Midwest, she still doesn’t like the cold.

“I come from Iowa, and I think Arizona would be a better place to live than here in terms of the weather,” Manderschied said. “Basically, we cope with drinking hot chocolate after we go sledding. During the winter, I really go stir crazy. Overall, I really hate it.”

Folks like Rich Hussey and his wife Nikki, who also live in Naperville, found themselves harkening back to those hot, humid summer days that somehow seem better now than they were when temperatures rose into the high 90s.

“I miss the sun, and I’m never going to complain about the heat,” Nikki said as she gazed down at her winter boots. “I find myself drinking a lot of hot chai tea, and eating bowls of chili. I feel like I live in my winter wardrobe that includes my hat and gloves and boots. I just have to suffer through it.”

Transplants like Martiza Velez, who lives now in Lombard but is originally from Puerto Rico, said that after five years of living here in the Midwest, she still hasn’t gotten used to the cold.

“I drink a lot of warm tea and warm foods like soup, but I still find that I don’t deal with the weather here very well,” Velez said. “It’s been years since I came here, and I still don’t like it.”

Gamauf, however, insists that when it comes to dealing with adversity from the weather, it’s all in your head.

“I just keep a positive mental attitude,” he said. “When the sun’s out and you feel that on your face, it’s not that bad.”

Schools in Naperville District 203 and Indian Prairie District 204 remained open this week, but the doors to recess playgrounds stayed firmly shut in accordance with protocols that keep kids indoors when it is unusually cold out, district spokeswomen said.

Volunteers who help out at area homeless shelters were busy, as usual, but there is extra urgency when temperatures dip as low as they have this week. DuPage PADS, formerly Public Action to Deliver Shelter, operates 29 interim housing sites scattered across the county — this month’s participating locations include of 19 churches, three of them in Naperville, and a synagogue — that together weave a network of overnight shelters available nightly throughout the year.

“We don’t turn anybody away, of course, when it’s under 30 degrees,” said Carol Simler, the Wheaton nonprofit’s executive director. “We know that it only takes 30 minutes for frostbite to set in. We’re very conscious of that.”

With capacities ranging from 30 to 65, the overnight sites tend to fill up every night during the winter months.

“The challenge is all of our sites are guided by the fire departments’ capacity limits. So we have to respect that,” Simler said.

When demand exceeds supply, the clients are taken to other locations in the county where an extra bed can be found, she said.

The shelters open at 6 p.m., and guests must leave by 7 a.m., after being fed dinner and breakfast and receiving a lunch to take with them. Back out on the street, the risks brought by extreme cold return.

Simler said PADS has received enough coats for its homeless population this year, but long underwear, scarves, mittens, hats are badly needed.

For more information, including comprehensive lists of needed items and volunteer opportunities, visit

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