LUMBERTON — Duane Woodard has a cool job, especially now when temperatures each July day are pushing toward triple-digits.
Woodard is a dock checker and driver at the Reddy Ice plant in Lumberton, and as part of his job he constantly rotates between the hot and humidity outside of the Elizabethtown Road plant and the refreshing 30-degree air that is inside, where the ice is hatched. Business, like the inside temps, has been brisk.
“Most of the guys in there have hoods and jackets on because there’s a constant battle we have to face in here,” said Woodard. “You’ve got to try and keep yourself well enough so you don’t get sick coming in and out of here.”
In the past week, temperatures in Robeson County have climbed the charts. Temperatures are set to be in the upper 90s for the next week with Saturday being the hottest.
Today’s high is forecast at 95 degrees, while Friday will be sunny with a high of 96. Saturday’s forecast calls for a high of 100 and no real cloud cover to provide a break. A hazardous weather outlook advisory issued by the National Weather Service also calls for a chance of severe thunderstorms tonight.
If temperatures Saturday do push into the triple-digits, it could rival the record high for that day, which has been intact for 86 years. The current record is 102 degrees, recorded on July 9, 1930.
Tim Johnson, manager for the Lumberton plant, said the plant has worked around the clock the last several days to continue to meet the growing demand for ice around their busiest day of the year — Fourth of July.
The Lumberton location is a part of the Raleigh market, and alone manufactures about 170 tons of “tube” ice per day — or 34,000 10-pound bags of ice. Palettes holding 210 bags of ice are loaded into cooling trucks and shipped to stores and businesses all across North Carolina and South Carolina.
The Reddy Ice company is the largest manufacturer of packaged ice in the United States. The company manufactures about 1.8 million tons of ice annually at 111 locations throughout the United States, with the most ice being produced in the summer months.
Several years ago it bought a locally named ice plant, Triangle Ice.
Johnson said that during the period from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the plant will have its highest sales of the year.
“Absolutely this is our busiest time of the year,” Johnson said.
With summer also being hurricane season, the plant manufactures extra ice in the event of a hurricane to provide relief.