Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Braving the weather: Emergency teams commended by commissioners

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The weather outside is frightful but Porter County’s road and emergency crews are hard at work to make travel delightful.

The Porter County Commissioners broke from their regular agenda on Tuesday to give kudos to the Highway Department, the Enhanced 911 Communications Center and the Emergency Management Agency for defying the obstacles nature had thrown at them the last few days.

EMA Director Russ Shirley said 18 inches of snow fell on the county with some areas getting up to two feet during Sunday’s blizzard.

During that time, E-911 Communications Director John Jokantas said there were 1,458 inbound phone calls made to emergency services on Sunday and 347 of those were 911 calls. On Monday, the number of inbound calls increased to 1,829, 157 of which were calls to 911. On any normal day, the center sees 450 inbound calls made to emergency services.

“We were three to three and a half times our normal call volume in just a 48 hour time period,” said Jokantas, who downplayed the matter somewhat. “It was just business as usual, just a little bit busier.”

Jokantas gave thanks to his staff for keeping up with the calls. Many of them were from motorists who slid off the road or were stuck in disabled vehicles.

County Highway Superintendent Al Hoagland said the 42 employees in his department have been working on the roads virtually non-stop since Jan. 1 to make travel as safe as possible. In doing so, more than 2,000 tons of material were spread on roads and 5,987 gallons of diesel fuel have been used up.

In all, Hoagland said his workers, as of Tuesday, had accumulated a total of 1,137 hours of overtime.

The tricky part of plowing the roads were shifts in the wind that blew snow around, Hoagland said, from the northeast to the south.

But the most difficult element to face, Hoagland said, were the sub-zero temperatures. “It was brutal. It was absolutely brutal,” he said.

The frigid cold caused fuel pumps to fail and hoses to freeze and break. Fuel had to be purchased from the regular market place, Hoagland said.

Plows have kept up for the most part on the 800 miles of road in the county as the state of emergency and driving ban was lifted at 6 a.m. on Tuesday.

“I think we put in a pretty good effort,” Hoagland said

“You certainly have put in a pretty good effort, in fact a great effort. It’s been a yeomen’s task. It’s very much appreciated,” County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, said.

Hoagland and Shirley said what really helped keeping the agencies working was the communication, most of which was by radio.

Shirley said the Indiana National Guard took action in rescuing motorists in Porter County, helping emergency and law enforcement officials, along with the Red Cross which provided food and other materials at county warming centers.

Hoagland said not to forget the Porter County Sheriff’s Department which worked in tandem with the highway department in closing county roads.

“They need to be commended, too. They were out in the thick of it,” Hoagland said.

Crews will next get to the subdivisions where there are many cul-de-sacs, many of which still need to be cleared out.

“I want to commend everyone involved. Everyone pulled together and it’s really been great,” said Evans.

Meanwhile, Curt Ellis, who maintains the County’s Facebook pages, said the posts on the social media site declaring Porter County’s state of emergency a total of 126,368 users, an all-time high, with major spikes on Monday and Tuesday.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Ellis said.

 

Posted 1/8/2014