CHICAGO (CBS) — With as cold as it’s been the past couple of weeks, you may wonder how cemeteries are able to continue burying the dead in a timely way.

According to Mike Hackiewicz, executive director of the Catholic Cemeteries of the Diocese of Joliet, there are about a thousand burials a year in the diocese’ 26 cemeteries. He said more than 70 percent of them are in-ground burials; 28 percent are cremations.

Hackiewicz said the hardest part when it is snowy and cold is finding a gravesite’s exact location and clearing it. Then, the ground must be thawed past the frost level. Right now, he said, it is about 4-to-6 inches deep.

“We’re going to come in with an air compressor and go ahead and start breaking the frost so our machines can get through the frost and excavate the grave,” Hackiewicz said.

In other cases, he said, a metal canopy device is put over a gravesite and heated with a propane burner to thaw the ground so digging can begin.

Even in this cold, he said, burials are able to take place the same day as the funeral. He said it’s important for cemetery workers to stay warm while locating gravesites and thawing and excavating the ground.

“A lot of time we’ll rotate the guys in and out, depending upon the kind of work they’re doing and make sure they’re either getting some time in the truck to warm up and/or in one of our buildings to warm up,” he said.

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