Arctic Cold Grips Minnesota Glass Industry

Viracon’s Kevin Anez says the fact that it is warmer at the North Pole today than in Minnesota speaks volumes about the Arctic air that has gripped the Gopher State and much of the nation.

Anez, director of marketing and product development for Viracon in Owatonna, Minn., isn’t alone. Many glass companies in the upper Midwest region, as well as other parts of the country, are faced with frigid temperatures. Some companies are pushing through, while others have shuttered their doors for the time being.

Anez, for one, says he made sure to dress in several warm layers before braving the cold and heading to work. He’d made the 200-yard walk into the building from the employee parking lot hundreds of times, but never under such adverse conditions.

“It can be dangerous so you have to protect yourself,” he says. “You don’t want any parts of your skin exposed. I could feel the wind just howling on my back.”

Viracon officials, however, left nothing to chance, sending prior emails to employees warning them of the life-threatening, frigid conditions headed their way. In the email, company safety officials urged employees to carry warmer clothes and food in their cars just in case they were to get stranded while driving.

Not everybody, however, was feeling as adventurous. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton ordered public schools across the state closed on Monday, while a number of businesses in the state and throughout the entire region such as Kalamazoo, Mich.-based Azon USA, have likewise shuttered their doors for the day.

Viracon, which is located an hour south of Minneapolis in Owatonna, Minn., is open for business as usual today despite the extreme conditions and reported the usual employee contingent on Monday.

“We have a pretty hardy bunch up here,” Anez says. “The parking lot looks like a typical day.”

Al Brink, the manager at St. Cloud Glass Co. in St. Cloud, Minn., says the extreme weather has had some effect on his company’s daily routine. Company employees will spend most of the day indoors doing flat glass work. Those who do venture outside will do so for just a few minutes at a time, Brink says.

“We didn’t plan on doing too much,” he says.

A spokesperson for Heartland Glass Co. in the Minneapolis suburb of Waite Park echoed those sentiments, saying that company employees who were slated to work on inside jobs reported to work as usual, while those scheduled for outside labor were told they could stay home.

So far, so good as work has been steady.

“We’re trying to find lots of indoor work to do today,” said the woman, who asked that her name not be used. “It’s just not tolerable to work outside in these conditions.”

Companies in Indiana are also feeling the impact of the cold temperatures. Yesterday Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard upgraded the city’s travel emergency level to “red,” making it illegal for anyone other than emergency personnel to drive except for emergency purposes or if they are seeking shelter. It was the first time Indianapolis has issued such a travel warning since the 1978 blizzard. By noon, the Indianapolis travel level was raised to orange, meaning residents should remain off the roads if possible. However, most of state remains in the red, according to the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.

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