Managing through the Cold with a Smile

Let’s face it, we haven’t really endured bitter cold temperatures much this winter. That was until last weekend. Working outside in the extreme cold with fierce winds could understandably make anyone unhappy. But not Louisville Water Emergency Turner Toni Estes.

Toni Estes of Louisville Water“I love my job. I honestly love what I do,” Estes said.

Her positive attitude is contagious. Estes has more than 21 years under her belt at Louisville Water. She’s spent 13 of those as an emergency turner.

“We’re always the first one to get here (on the scene) and the last ones to leave. We decide if it’s a main break. It might be a building flooding; it might be a burst meter. Once we determine it’s a main break, we have to look up the gates, find out how many gates there are, and start turning ‘em off one by one.”

Turning off those gate valves that connect surrounding pipes isolates the area where the break happened.

“You try to get ‘em off as fast as you can and as safe as you can,” she explained.

Baxter main breakEstes was one of the turners who responded to Baxter Avenue on the Martin Luther King holiday. The repair job stretched into the night as crews worked to fix the leak and minimize the impact on businesses, customers, and drivers.

Field Technician Darryl Thaxton rolled out the salt truck to treat the icing road where water lapped across it. The safety of the crews and the community is a priority for Louisville Water, especially when the temperatures drop quickly.

“I probably used at least two loads on that road. They went and brought the big truck back out.”

For Thaxton, it’s all about having the right mindset to manage through the cold.

“It’s all mental. The only thing I do is motivate myself. I talk to myself a lot when it’s cold (laughs) and put on layers,” Thaxton said.

While Estes and Thaxton worked in the field, dispatcher Beth McAnelly fielded dozens of calls in Louisville Water’s radio room.

“We started with the “no water” (calls) Saturday. It went on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. It was steady, but we managed,” McAnelly said with a smile.

Each call means McAnelly must create a ticket to have a crew member investigate if it’s a Louisville Water service line that’s frozen.

“The majority (of the problems) are on the customer’s side. They don’t want to hear that,” said McAnelly. “We tell them to ‘open up your cabinets. Get as much heat to your faucets, to your pipes that you can, anything on the outside wall.’”

As it turned out, McAnelly was right. Nearly all the calls were frozen customer pipes. She happily reported that a few customers called back to cancel their ticket because they’d successfully thawed their plumbing.

That’s fewer tickets an emergency turner will have to venture out in the cold to check, but Estes is always ready to tackle the next call.

“Theraflu and Vitamin C every day in the wintertime. Keep the immune system up because we work in the rain, snow, sleet, all of that.”