Ambulances battle unplowed private roads

With more than a foot of snow still on the ground, the Callaway County Emergency Operations Center director is concerned about medical responses to areas of the county where there are unplowed private roads.

Michelle Kidwell, director of the Callaway County Emergency Operations Center, said all county-maintained roads have been plowed and passable but there are numerous areas of the county with private roads that have not been plowed.

“Some of the private roads are more than a mile long. It is extremely difficult for an ambulance to reach these areas,” Kidwell said.

“Ambulance drivers are encountering numerous narrow private roads that have not been cleared. This is our main concern now,” Kidwell said.

“On Thursday morning we had a heart condition medical emergency in the Wildwood Subdivision out in the county. If we had not had National Guard resources we would have had a very difficult time getting to the person with the medical emergency,” Kidwell said.

Maj. Tamara Spicer said about 600 Missouri National Guard members from 20 units around the state were mobilized on Monday and were still on duty on Friday. The Fulton National Guard unit was not among the units activated, Spicer said.

National Guardsmen were still assisting on Friday in rural areas of the state, mainly people who need assistance for medical emergencies. She said private roads were a big problem and on Friday there were still some counties in the state where not all of the county-maintained roads had been plowed.

Guardsmen are assisting ambulances to help them get through. They are using four-wheel-drive Humvees, 2.5 ton, and 5 ton trucks to break through the snow. If the ambulance cannot follow them, the ambulance crew will get into the vehicle with National Guardsmen, go to the scene of the emergency, and bring the patient back to the ambulance.

Guardsmen also helped doctors and nurses get to hospitals in rural areas as well as law enforcement officers who became stranded.

Spicer said Missouri guardsmen assisted motorists along I-70 in Callaway County who were stranded during blizzard conditions Tuesday afternoon and night.

On Tuesday afternoon heavy snow coupled with high winds caused white-out conditions along I-70, making it impossible to drive. I-70 was closed across the state from St. Louis to Kansas City starting at about 1 p.m. Tuesday until daybreak on Wednesday. It was the first time since it was built that I-70 had been closed all the way through Missouri from Kansas City to St. Louis.

Kidwell had high praise for the Callaway County Road and Bridge Department road clearing crew for their work during the storm.

Because so much snow had been forecasted, Kidwell made arrangements in advance with the county road clearing crew to accompany ambulances on all calls in the county to areas that had not been plowed. She also contacted cities in the county to provide the same snow-plowing service to ambulance calls within city limits.

She also lined up warming centers to be set up on a standby basis if they were needed. “I tried to get things ready in advance because of the severity of the weather forecast,” Kidwell said.

“The Callaway County Road and Bridge crew took time away from plowing to accompany ambulances. They were a big help and I am so appreciative of the long hours they put in to clear roads,” Kidwell said.

On Tuesday night at the height of the storm there was an electrical power outage involving about 950 people near Williamsburg. But the Callaway Electric Cooperative was able to get the power back on in only a couple of hours.

“Other than this incident, we have not had electrical power issues throughout the duration of the storm and its aftermath,” Kidwell said.

Kidwell said the Callaway EOC has two portable generators that can be used in emergencies.

Spicer said all of the National Guard units were equipped with generators in case they were needed. “Fortunately, we didn’t have to use many of them because there were not a lot of power outages,” Spicer said.

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