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Polar vortex means busy day for AAA

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NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) -

Jose Rodriguez, a AAA road service provider, picked the wrong day to handle cold metal for a living.

"Can't feel these things," he said, wiggling his fingers.

Temperatures lingered in the single digits Tuesday, the wind gusted, and Jose fixed a woman's fuel pump so she could get to work and avoid waiting three hours for a tow.

Back at the Maspeth, Queens, garage, AAA Fleet Manager Roger Miller fielded a new call every minute -- 15 times the normal amount.

"The whole day," he said, "it's just call after call after call."

"It's freezing," Jose said. "It's freezing, man."

Jose jumped a lot of dead batteries, jimmied open a locked truck, and silently prayed before each new assignment the vehicle in need wouldn't require the one fix he dreaded the most: "Tire change in the snow," Jose said without hesitating.

"You get a lot of flat tires," Miller said, "a lot more than normal when the weather gets like this."

When cold, atoms move around a lot less than they do when warm, meaning they also take up less space. So on a day like Tuesday, the atoms inside your tire collide with the tire's walls less often, decreasing tire pressure and leaving your vehicle vulnerable to flats.

"That is the worst: getting your hands freezing in all the mud and ice," Jose said, still focused on changing tires in the snow. "It is ridiculous."

As a country-sized expanse of cold, dense air swirled counterclockwise above and around him, Jose pumped some of that air into a tire in need and sent the driver on his way. This, after watching the woman with the frozen fuel pump hurry off to work in her now-functioning Honda Civic.

"Everything is fine with her," Jose said. "So as long as everybody's good, I'm good."

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