As the sun slowly made its way over Mt. Jumbo last Friday, the first sounds of pneumatic nail guns, pounding hammers and scraping shovels could be heard on Cummins Street in the Upper Rattlesnake. It was a balmy 7 degrees, and after two days of record low sub-zero temperatures and marrow-chilling winds, construction workers were back to work and grateful for a breezeless, sunny morning.
“We had to take two days off,” said Luke Hawkins, an independent contractor, as he took a measurement for the next piece of siding. He called out a number, and a big man in an oversized black sweatshirt marked a line on piece of siding and began to cut.
“You lose money if you work on days like that,” Hawkins called out over the metallic whine of a circular saw. “You only get about a quarter of the work done.”
It was still cold. At more than 20 degrees below freezing, the snow squeaked beneath work boots and gloved fingers were slow, stiff and clumsy. But it was only 9 a.m., with the forecast calling for a high of 20 degrees.
Hawkins, of Extreme Exteriors, was working with two other men on the shady north side of a one-story custom home a few hundred yards from Rattlesnake Creek. Over the course of a few bitter days the creek’s banks had narrowed with the buildup of fresh ice.
Hawkins said he doesn’t work when the temperature drops below zero. Period. If it’s 10 degrees and windy he won’t call his crew in to work, either.
“You gotta try to keep your guys happy. That means not working when it’s below zero,” he said. “We’ll make it up on a couple of weekends.”
There was work to be done on the sunny east side of the house, but Hawkins said he was saving that for later.
“I’ve got some people coming to help me out tomorrow,” he explained. “I’m saving the work in the sun for them so they’re not mad at me.”