Cleanup continues after winter blast
WORTHINGTON -- Finding a way to get a pizza delivered during a major weekend snowstorm doesn't sound like an emergency to most people, but it was one of the many calls local dispatch took during the height of Saturday's blizzard.
Worthington Police Sergeant Tim Gaul said Monday that the call came into dispatch from a couple of people who had been rescued from their stalled vehicle earlier in the day. After being dropped off at a local motel, they realized they didn't have food to eat.
"They called our dispatch center and asked ... if we could pick them up a pizza," said Gaul. "We didn't go get the pizza."
Law enforcement officials had plenty of work to keep them busy after 10 inches of snow, delivered with winds clocked as high as 60 miles per hour, seemingly paralyzed the city for 36 hours.
Fortunately, there were no weather-related fatalities in the region or serious injuries as a result of the storm. Even the American Red Cross, which can be called in to provide aid for stranded motorists, had a quiet weekend, according to local Red Cross director Joyce Jacobs.
The weather forced the lone dispatcher at the Prairie Justice Center to work a 19-hour shift on Saturday, but it didn't keep "looky Lous" from venturing out to go shopping or watch the snow pile up on city streets.
Gaul said law enforcement officials "dealt with people who predominantly didn't make good choices" and ventured out with two-wheel-drive vehicles not equipped for driving through wind-whipped snowdrifts. In just a two-block stretch of Oxford Street -- from Burlington to Smith avenues -- there were more than a dozen stalled vehicles.
"A lot of the people we were out helping did not need to be out," Gaul said. "We understand if people have a medical emergency, but going to Wal-Mart or Hy-Vee to get groceries is not an emergency."
The police department, which has only one four-wheel-drive vehicle, relied on a second truck from another agency just to get around town during Saturday's white-out conditions and storm aftermath on Sunday. Gaul said the department made about half a dozen rescues from stalled vehicles, but no tickets were issued for those towed out on Sunday.
"It would have added insult to injury," said Gaul, adding that the department may ticket the next time.
On the city's northeast side, Blue Line Travel Center played host to many truckers caught in the midst of the storm.
Darci Jenkins, general manager and bookkeeper, said 12 employees were stranded at the truck stop to sell fuel, supplies and food to the truckers and travelers.
"It was crazy," she said. "A lot of the trucks were here Friday night -- they pulled in because of the ice."
By Saturday morning, employees couldn't see far enough outdoors to know who was coming and going from their lot, but truckers who came in to eat said the lot was full.
"They were telling me that there was no place to park, but you couldn't see nothing," Jenkins said.
State troopers dropped off more than a dozen stranded motorists at the travel center.
"We sold all of our blankets," she added. "(People) were sleeping in the booths and the chairs, and some were sleeping on the floor in the dining room. We told them to get comfortable."
Trucks began pulling out as soon as the plows opened up the highways on Sunday. By then, people living in town also started venturing out as streets were cleared.
At Runnings, store manager Eric Bullerman said there was a run on snow blowers, shovels, ice melt and winter attire.
"We sold probably about 10 snow blowers yesterday," Bullerman said, adding that more went out the door Monday morning. There were still about five left, but Bullerman said they were ordering more.
Aside from snow blowers and shovels, Bullerman said propane was in high demand on Sunday, and quite a few pairs of Carhart coveralls were sold.
Back at the police department, Gaul said officers began issuing $25 fines Monday morning to violators of the odd-even parking ordinance, and tickets were issued for vehicles still hampering plowing efforts.
Downtown Worthington city streets looked like a labyrinth as employees made their way to work on Monday while city plows continued the clean-up efforts.
Out in the country, county plows had an easier time with snow removal.
"The wind helped us a lot out in the country because most of the snow blows across the road and keeps blowing," said Nobles County Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder. "Our challenges are on the perimeter of the communities and also where we have hills or farm places closer to the roadway."
Despite some problems with its snow blower, the county was able to get most roads open to at least one lane of travel by the end of the day on Sunday. The county crew was back at it again on Monday morning, Schnieder said.
"It's starting out to be a winter like last year," he added.
With the county's overtime budget already wiped out at the end of March, Schnieder said the weekend blizzard was poor timing.
"We always hope the storms come during the week -- that's just selfish on our part so we don't have to pay overtime," he said. "This is one of those years we're taking money out of reserves to cover (overtime costs)."
The county's new budgeting year begins Jan. 1, so any overtime or materials needed between now and the end of the year will have to be covered by undesignated reserves.