Cold ice 2

Chris Schreiber, owner of RE Dry Ice, demonstrates the fog-like gas given off when dry ice is placed in warm water. Dry ice, just about the only thing colder than this week, can be used to cool food, provide special effects and be blasted against walls like sand as a cleaning agent.

For Melvin Cooke, who on Thursday was pouring 2,675-degree molten iron into a blast furnace at Dotson Foundry, the coldest days of the year are among the most comfortable.

“After your first summers here, the winters are nothin’,” he said. “ I barely break a sweat now.”

It’s pretty hot when radiant heat pours out of uncovered cauldrons of liquid metal, but otherwise the temperature is a comfortable 75 or 80 degrees.

During the summer, though, temperatures reach 120 degrees, and foundry workers rely on Gatorade to cool off.

A bit farther down the line, Cody Sandstrom and Nick Feltis operate the “knockoff,” a sort of wedge-like drill that is maneuvered into grooves in the iron in order to remove excess metal.

“Winter is pretty nice around here,” Sandstrom says.

Still, the metal remains hot, sometimes 700 or 800 degrees, when it reaches them.

And to boot: Occasional snow and ice shoots down from a ventilation pipe connected to the roof and hits him in the back, leaving Sandstrom with a hot-cold combo that leaves him spinning in circles.

“It’s better than summer, but ...” he says, trailing off to indicate that one can only be so comfortable in a job like this.

If a foundry is one of the hottest places to work, Chris Schreiber’s product is one of the coolest.

Dry ice, which sits at a constant minus 109 degrees, is one of the only things that’s colder than Mankato may ever get. A freezer’s not cold enough to keep it from turning into a gas, nor was North Mankato’s low temperature of negative 24 Thursday morning, as reported by KEYC chief meteorologist Mark Tarello.

Schreiber, owner of RE Dry Ice, said business tends to slow down in the winter months, though dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide) can also be used for high-pressure blasting in place of sand. Dry ice is less abrasive, he said.

The best way to keep it from sublimating, or turning from a solid to a gas, is just to keep it insulated and packed together.

Finally, police have one of the most unpredictable jobs around because they never know how long they might have to be outside, Mankato Police Commander Amy Vokal said.

It’s also one of the sweatiest, because the uncertainty keeps them in heavy clothing indoors as well.

But Vokal doesn’t have to endure the sweating-shivering phenomenon this time.

She’s in Key West, Fla., with her husband, Chuck, sharing some laughs over the locals wearing sweatshirts in 70-degree weather. Amy was sporting sandals and capri pants Thursday and Chuck apparently thought 70 degrees was good enough for shorts.

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