The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

January 7, 2014

Bitter cold causes headaches for motorists

JOHNSTOWN — A low of 14 below zero and wind chills reaching 40 below early Tuesday had many experts urging people to limit their time outdoors and postpone any unnecessary trips or errands.

But the advice does not apply to Moxham Mobil owner Bruce Krouse and others whose jobs don’t include snow days.

Tuesday’s frigid weather kept Krouse and his crews hopping – or at least jumping. By noon Krouse had responded to 30 service calls – mostly for dead batteries.

“We’ve been out all night,” Krouse said Tuesday while driving to yet another jump-start.

There were few stranded motorists, he added. Most of the calls were at people’s homes.

Meanwhile, Moxham Mobil’s heavier unit, the rollback truck, was also making the rounds picking up vehicles that needed more than a jump or tire change.

The Moxham Mobil crews and other roadside service providers were not immune from the record cold. Diesel fuel congealed from the extreme temperature and put the rollback out of service for a couple of hours.

Then the power pack used for jump-starting vehicles began to lose power.

“Normally, you hook up the battery pack, and it starts right up,” Krouse said while driving between calls Tuesday afternoon. “With these cold temperatures, they are cranking a little more.”

The heavy loads and repeated use drained the portable power pack that has replaced jumper cables for roadside service in today’s vehicles. Krouse was able to recharge the power pack between jumps by plugging them into Moxham Mobil’s light service response truck’s electrical system.

Digital electronics built into modern vehicles can be damaged by power surges when jump-starting another car, Krouse explained.

The power pack also makes the jump-start quicker. In less than 90 minutes, Krouse had cars running again on Tener Street in Richland Township, on 12th Street and on Somerset Avenue in Windber and on Solomon Run Road in Richland. The Somerset Avenue customer never even came outside until the car was running.

Another Windber resident was not so lucky. The Cambria Avenue resident’s car did not respond to treatment and required a follow-up call by Moxham Mobil’s rollback truck.

Krouse was not the only one working outside Tuesday.

Postal worker Don Podrasky was making his rounds in Windber. His 27 years on the job have proven the value of the oft-repeated advice to dress in layers. Podrasky had five layers of clothing on as he delivered mail along Cambria Avenue.

 But it was not his least-favorite weather, Podrasky said. Winter rain is worse.

“This is one of those oddball days,” he said. “You don’t have these very often.

“With cold rain, it soaks through, and you have to watch how you drive because it will freeze.”

Besides layering up on the outside, John Fabo of South Fork makes sure he is winterized inside when pumping gas at his business, Fabo’s Garage, 300 Lake St.

“I’ll microwave tomato soup or something thick and heavy,” Fabo said. “Avoid all the junk stuff and keep your bald head covered.”

Randy Griffith is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at

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