A large construction crane has been part of the downtown Sioux Falls skyline for nearly a year now.
It’s been helping crews build the multi-million dollar Washington Square building located on Main Avenue, across from the Washington Pavilion. The towering crane is expected to complete its work later this month.
Jeff Husman’s daily commute involves a climb up the corporate ladder in downtown Sioux Falls. It’s a rung-by-rung ascent 150 feet straight into the air.
“It’s a good little workout in the morning. It gets your heart moving a little bit,” Husman said.
The heart-pumping hike is followed by a breathtaking view, once Husman reaches the top of the Henry Carlson tower crane.
“Some mornings, I’ve seen the sunrise and sunset in the same day up there. Yeah, it’s a good view downtown,” Husman said.
From inside the crane’s cabin, Husman is responsible for pulling the levers that snag and then swing massive slabs of precast concrete that go into the building of the 8-story Washington Square. He is in the catbird seat from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. with no breaks in-between because crews on the ground rotate shifts to hook more material for Husman to move.
“There’s a lot of people counting on you being up there,” Husman said.
Husman says his biggest challenge on the job isn’t the sheer altitude — heights don’t faze him in the least. It’s those pesky South Dakota prairie winds that rattle him most.
“The wind, it’s a monster to that crane, it moves it a lot more than you think, just a 20-mile an hour wind really moves that thing a lot,” Husman said.
Husman will shut down the crane if winds top 35 mph. Then there’s the lightning that accompanies a summer storm.
“But you are safe up there because if it is struck by lightning the current goes through the tower to the ground,” Husman said.
Perry: Alright, we’ve gotten this far into the story and I know there’s a question you’re just dying to ask. A guy spends 12-hours a day way up in the sky, doesn’t take any breaks. Let’s see, how do I delicately ask?
Husman: Bathroom facilities? Actually, that’s one of the first things people ask me. Well, put it this way. For number one, there’s a jug I go in and I clean it out every night and for number two, you just get on a schedule because you don’t want to deal with that, you do that at home.
But there are other types of movements that keep Husman on-the-go in an enclosed cabin.
“I’m one of those people that have to move around a little bit. There’s room behind the seat to stand up behind the seat, stretch or what not,” Husman said. “At least there’s 15 to 20 feet to pace a little bit.”
Husman’s leisurely stroll along the boom is part of an inspection to make sure all parts of the crane are in peak condition.
“We had an oil leak a few months back, I just want to make sure that stays under control. I mean, with it swinging over cars and things like that, we want to make sure that it stays up to snuff,” Husman said.
It’s also Husman’s job to change the U.S. flag on the very top of the crane.
“It was a bit of an experience, you’re on top of the world there,” Husman said.
Husman’s background included working with hydraulic cranes. So switching to a much larger, electric crane was quite a leap.
“It’s a big crane, there’s a lot of steel up there to move around. So yeah, it was a little intimidating,” Husman said.
Yet it’s a job that Husman has embraced as firmly as the slabs he picks up. When it comes to keeping co-workers and others down below safe while performing such a colossal, yet delicate task, Husman will never let you down.