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Cali Owings, Published December 23 2013

Unusually bitter cold snap even hard on Santas

FARGO – It was so cold on Monday, even Santa had to duck inside to warm up.

Or at least that was how a rotating series of employees at United Blood Services handled it as they donned the red suit and sat on the blood bank’s roof in a push to solicit 120 donations by the end of the day today.

On a day when temperatures didn’t get above 9 below, volunteers took to the roof in stints of about 20 minutes apiece, totaling up about 8½ hours outdoors, said Tami Kilzer, donor recruitment manager, who added the donation drive was planned long before the weather forecast was set.

Not that outdoor work in Santa gear had to be unbearable as the bitter cold continued Monday.

Paul Tangen, who repairs signals and signs outdoors for the city of Fargo, was wearing a red Santa hat – coupled with his full white beard – while on the job.

Tangen is no stranger to the Santa role, which he’s played a few times this season at events throughout the area. “It brings joy to people,” he said. “I do it kind of selfishly because it brings joy to me, too.”

He said the Santa hat is just as warm as the stocking cap he’d usually wear outside – plus the fur covers his ears well.

For Tangen, who will retire this summer, today is the last day he’ll wear the hat while working for the city of Fargo.

“I just hope to bring some cheer to people who are out in the streets frustrated with traffic,” he said.

Most outdoor workers are like Tangen – well-prepared to handle the region’s frigid conditions.

For Taylor Azure, owner of Northland Towing, the cold is another incentive to provide services quickly. By lunchtime, his team had already completed 12 jump starts and eight tows. The average time on a start is just three minutes, he said.

“We do our thing as quick as possible and get back in the truck as fast as possible,” Azure said.

He said a quality pair of gloves is key to staying warm. He also wears insulated jeans and wool socks.

While the cold may be tough on fingers and car batteries, it’s good for Azure’s business. He said his volume has doubled over this time last year due to winter conditions.

“Winter is hitting a lot faster and harder this year than last year,” he said.

Indeed, December will likely go down in the record books as one of the area’s coldest, WDAY meteorologist John Wheeler said. So far, temperatures this month are about 12 degrees below average, he said.

“This December will rival December 2000 – the last time we had a really long cold snap,” Wheeler said.

Staying warm in that sort of cold takes effort but isn’t impossible, Wheeler said.

“For the most part, being outside in this weather all bundled up is certainly survivable,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Cali Owings at (701) 241-5599