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Blizzard '15

Cops, Firefighters and … Zookeepers? Who Works During Blizzard

Image: A worker clears snow at New York's Central Park Zoo following a morning snow fall

A worker clears snow at New York's Central Park Zoo following a morning snow fall January 9, 2015. Reuters

No matter what kind of wallop the expected blizzard dishes out in the Northeast, duty calls. Aside from police, emergency services and medical professionals, here are seven other types of workers who won’t be sitting in their bathrobes, drinking hot chocolate and watching the snow fall Tuesday.

IT system operators

Snow can’t create gridlock on the information superhighway. Wall Street -- which will remain open Tuesday -- and other industries depend on their computer systems to keep humming away, which means the professionals who oversee and, if necessary, reroute that digital traffic, can’t let the white stuff keep them offline.

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Zookeepers

During snowstorms, zoos house a few extra inhabitants: the humans who have to take care of them.

Jeannine Jackle, assistant curator, tropical forest at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, said she has stocked up on food, water and flashlight batteries. She has also set up cots for the handful of zookeepers and other staff members who will sleep in the zoo’s education center overnight so they can feed the animals, check on the ducks (who live outside) and, if the power goes out, fire up generators to keep the animals, birds and tropical plants warm.

Power plant engineers

The snow might come down, but the lights and heat can stay on thanks to the workers who maintain the operations at power plants. They also need to be there if something goes wrong: A 2013 blizzard that hit Massachusetts prompted the shutdown of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth after it lost power.

Utility and phone repair crews

If the lights — or phone and Internet — do go out, repair crews have to go out into the storm and fix downed wires or disabled transformers.

At Con Edison, the utility that provides electric, gas and steam service to more than 3 million customers in New York City and Westchester County, spokesman Bob McGee said all 14,000 employees, plus on-call contractors, were ready, with extra crews on call to come in and work shifts as needed.

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Tow truck drivers

When slick road conditions lead to fender-benders, tow truck drivers hop behind the wheel and get to work. (Auto body shops also get a business bump from snowstorm-related fender-benders.)

In one 2013 snowstorm that dropped more than 30 inches of snow on Long Island, 200 drivers were stuck in their cars when the roads became impassable.

Ironically, this week’s blizzard might mean fewer wrecked or stranded vehicles because large amounts of snow tend to keep more drivers off the roads.

Plumbers

Extreme cold can make pipes freeze and even burst, which means blizzard season is busy season for plumbers. “All bets are off when we see conditions like we saw last year during the ‘polar vortex,’” Paul Abrams, spokesman for the Roto-Rooter Services Company, said via email. “The number of frozen pipes (thousands and thousands) during that event exceeded anything our company has ever dealt with.”

Hotel managers

Hotels can’t turn their guests out into the cold, so managers just join them.

“I’m planning to stay here myself tonight,” said Scott Nadeau, general manager of the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Along with putting up stranded guests, he said the hotel was using several dozen rooms to house employees for the duration of the storm.

“In smaller hotels I’ve worked in as general manager, I have poured coffee [and] have helped people with their luggage” when bad weather made it impossible for other employees to get to work, he said.

On Monday, Nadeau was contacting vendors to make sure the hotel would have enough food and other supplies if delivery trucks couldn’t get there. “Everybody’s going to be stuck in the hotel, and then we have to feed them,” he said.