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Tunneling through, digging out

February 3, 2011

Post & Mail photos/Nicole Ott A car makes its way down 50 W, near 600 N through a drift pushed back from the roadway by county highway crews.

COLUMBIA CITY — The snow storm this week put everyone in Whitley County and across much of the country on high-alert.
There were some who couldn’t take shelter at home and wait out the blizzard in pajamas with a cup of hot cocoa.
“There were so many stranded motorists,” said Cathy Broxon-Ball of the Whitley County Emergency Management/Department of Homeland Security.
“I guess everybody figures that police and emergency vehicles can just get to them in a matter of minutes, but we had so many responders that were getting stuck that, well, that’s why we have these levels.”
The agency worked with the Whitley County Board of Commissioners in issuing snow emergencies this week as the area prepared for this winter’s biggest snow storm.
The Level 1 emergency was upgraded to a Level 2 this morning.
Broxon-Ball has been at work since 7 a.m. Monday.
“It’s not just me here,” she said. “My deputy has been in and out and we’ve had volunteer radio people here and most have spent the night.”
At the Whitley County Sheriff’s office, Sheriff Mark Hodges spent the night at his office Tuesday, finally making it home by Wednesday evening.
“Everything last night remained pretty calm,” he said, “but Tuesday night was pretty hectic with two of our officers getting stuck.”
Hodges said one was stuck in a snowdrift on his way to rescue three people stranded in a car in the south part of the county.
“The other got stuck trying to take an employee home who had crashed with their sugar levels,” he said.
Hodges said the effects of the storm could have been worse and touted the efforts of county agencies for getting the word out before the first snowflake fell.
“I would have to hope that all the emergency agencies being ready for it and the commissioners issuing the snow emergency levels, that all in all, it wasn’t too bad,” he said.
Broxon-Ball said this morning there were some who could have made the situation easier by abiding by the snow emergency declarations
“We don’t just do it because,” she said.
And some motorists, Broxon-Ball said, were flirting with disaster in the winter weather and when things went bad, resorted to dishonesty in order to secure a rescue.
“We got a call that a couple of girls were stranded in their car with a baby and their gas was running low,” she said.
“When we got there, it was just a couple of teenagers. I guess they figured if they said there was a baby, we’d hurry up and get there.”
Broxon-Ball said her office expects the Level 2 to remain for the rest of Thursday.
“We’re going to keep this at Level Two throughout today,” she said. “We always evaluate between 5 and 7 a.m. and between noon and 4 p.m. Today we changed the level at 8 a.m. because we wanted to make sure people had to light to see where they were driving.”

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