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Monday Coldest Day In Two Years Residents Scramble To Cope, But Cars Don’t Cooperate

Shoppers deluged Do It Center hardware Monday to scoop up heating tape.

Less-fortunate residents called plumbers to de-ice home pipes. Homeless shelters dragged out extra cots and sleeping bags.

And everywhere, cars cranked and groaned but refused to start.

Monday dawned cold, cold, cold and everyone felt it.

“It hit us all at once,” said Tom Devine, emergency manager for the American Automobile Association. “It seemed like all the (car) batteries in town went down at once.”

Temperatures in Coeur d’Alene Monday hit minus 4, making it the coldest day in two years. Breezes of 20 mph were expected to sink wind chills to minus 45 early today.

In response, a St. Vincent De Paul women’s shelter that housed four people last week was expected to put up 13 Monday night, said manager Pat Meshishnek.

“We’ve had a fairly low population since Christmas, but I’ve contacted four families who need a place already today,” she said Monday. “It’s so cold it’s miserable.”

Meshishnek was preparing for a week of below-zero temperatures that couldn’t have come at a worse time.

“We’re reaching the end of the month, which means (residents’) funds are short,” she said. “The cold weather also means it’s hard to find day work.”

Advertisements for day-by-day laborers - construction and moving jobs - dipped noticeably in January, said Lee Fields, office manager for Coeur d’Alene Job Service.

The frigid temperatures hurt the jobless, but it also inconvenienced the employed.

Motorists with car trouble jammed 16 phone lines at AAA, forcing some callers to wait 30 minutes or more to get through. Devine’s office fielded 150 calls an hour - five times what it did just last week.

“We’re telling people it’s going to be three-plus hours before we can get to them - and that’s after we prioritize,” Devine said Monday.

Workers at Day & Night Plumbing tackled more complaints of frozen pipes between 5:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. than they did for several days before, said owner Belinda Cabaniss.

“My guys have been going non-stop,” she said.

Livestock owners scrambled to make sure their animals had extra rations of feed to help them keep warm.

Llama owner Jere Riley considered installing barnyard space heaters for her 45 animals and added twice daily scoops of grain to their diet of hay.

“It keeps their energy up,” she said.

Few were unaffected by Monday’s cold. In fact, greenery was the only traditional victim not hit by the cold this time.

“God already provided the best thing,” said Northland Nursery owner Dianna Decker. “Snow keeps the plants a constant temperature so they don’t freeze and thaw and freeze. Plant-wise, we’re sitting in Fat City.”

The frigid temperatures also gave police investigators a break from their burgeoning caseload. Burglars and thieves, it seems, don’t like the cold either.

“Weather like this gives us some breathing room,” said Coeur d’Alene Police Capt. Carl Bergh.

Daily low temperatures were expected to stay near zero most of the week, said National Weather Service forecaster Larry Sossaman.

That prompted an exhausted Devine to joke that “if your car breaks down … call a friend.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo Graphic: Cold-weather tips