What started as a relatively mild winter has done a drastic 180-degree turn. Snow, sleet, rain, wind, bone-rattling wind chills — you name it, we’ve had it … and that’s in the last couple of weeks.

There are numerous professions where people must work outside in these ugly, sometimes dangerous, conditions. We would like to give a shout out to some of them.

First, the obvious — snowplow drivers. When most of us are putting our cars in the garage or starting a warm fire, those who drive plows are hitting the city streets, rural roads and every place in between.

When you wake up in the morning and your street, parking lot or driveway is clean and safe to drive on, give thanks to the plow drivers. They work all hours of the day or night to clear the snow and ice.

With that said, be careful if you’re driving your vehicle near a plow. Those are huge vehicles that need their space. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation offers five simple rules for driving near a plow.

They include: Give at least 20 feet of roadway; wait for a safe time to pass; follow the plow rather than passing; take it slow; and always buckle up.

Firefighters and law enforcement personnel deserve praise all day, every day, but their jobs are made even more difficult under adverse weather conditions.

There have been a couple of fires in this area in the past couple of weeks. Firefighters and their equipment are really put to the test in this nasty weather.

For the firefighters, the most obvious concern is frostbite. But they also must deal with having to wear gear and heavy airpacks. The gear is designed to protect them, but when it gets wet and cold, it can become stiff and bulky. They can work up a sweat in those conditions and keeping properly hydrated can be an issue.

As for equipment, fire hydrants can freeze and be buried in snow. (Keep hydrants clear of snow if you have one near your home.) Hoses can freeze halting the free flow of water necessary in fighting a fire. They also become less pliable and are more difficult to move around.

Speaking of water, when it is dispensed and reaches the ground it can freeze quickly. That’s when slips and falls become a major hazard.

Unfortunately, the winter months are the most common times for fires. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), structure fires increase in the winter months because of the colder weather which leads to heating equipment running longer.

Police officers and rescue workers also must deal with conditions and can’t take “snow days” because of the weather. Some of the concerns mentioned with firefighters — frostbite, cold weather, slippery conditions — are hazards for police and rescue workers.

There are other occupations that don’t stop because of the weather — plumbers, tow truck drivers, public service personnel and postal and hospital workers come to mind. Be grateful there are people willing to work when the rest of us are just trying to stay warm.