Tuesday, February 8, 2011
About two dozen emergency service providers throughout Callaway County gathered Monday afternoon at the county’s Emergency Operations Center to review procedures used during last week’s blizzard that dumped more than a foot of snow on the county.
Each representative expressed satisfaction for the hard work that was put in by crews working through the storm, especially the snow plow crews from the Callaway County Road and Bridge Department that cleared 820 miles of road throughout the county and the Fulton street clearing crews that not only plowed snow but also hauled some of it away in the downtown area.
Crews from both agencies worked without sleep for almost two days to clear roads and streets. Volunteer members of county fire protection districts also worked long hours to be ready to handle any emergencies.
Firemen agreed they were relieved that no major fires broke out during the storm and that ice was not a major problem.
Fulton Fire Chief Dean Buffington told the group that the department has been struggling to locate many fire hydrants that were covered by the deep snow. Some of the hydrants along streets were covered by snow plows and people shoveling snow from driveways.
“We can’t remember where all of them are. We can pull out maps and we still don’t know exactly where they are. We can dig for quite a while before finding them,” Buffington said.
Fulton City Administrator Bill Johnson said people who have hydrants near their homes should make a point of clearing away the snow. “They may save their own home if they do so,” Johnson said.
Sheriff Dennis Crane praised county road crews for their work during the storm. “They came to help me when I got stuck,” Crane said.
The Missouri National Guard was activated and assisted the Callaway County Ambulance District in making calls during the storm. A National Guard unit from Hannibal was activated and was waiting around at a St. Louis armory to be dispatched.
Charles Anderson, Callaway County Ambulance District manager, said ambulance crews were having difficulty making it through deep snow. A request to the National Guard for Humvees to assist in ambulance calls was approved about noon Tuesday and they were promised to arrive in six hours. But a dispatching problem in the National Guard resulted in the unit from Hannibal not being dispatched until much later. They did not arrive in Fulton until about 7 p.m. Wednesday, more than 24 hours later.
Anderson said a National Guard Humvee was used for about 36 hours to assist in Callaway County ambulance calls.
“During that 36-hour period we sent the National Guard Humvee on seven ambulance calls and we had to use them on four of the responses. They were very beneficial and a big help to us,” Anderson said.
“We were able to serve everyone who called us. A couple of cases took us longer than we would have liked but we did make it to all calls,” Anderson said.
Anderson said the National Guard unit from Hannibal had been activated early and were in an armory in St. Louis with about 100 guardsmen waiting to be deployed. “They didn’t understand why it took so long for them to be deployed. They were as frustrated as we were about the delay,” Anderson said.
Crane said in previous dealings with the National Guard it takes from 36 to 48 hours for them to arrive, and that’s not related to the storm.
Michelle Kidwell, EOC director, said she was told that after requesting resources it could take up to 96 hours for the National Guard to arrive. Kidwell said she understood that but her problem was that the National Guard had told her that the unit would be in Fulton in six hours but they didn’t arrive until a day and a half later.
Kidwell said she tried to keep the Humvees in Callaway County to assist ambulance calls in private roads that were not plowed in many instances. “But they didn’t want to stay here,” Kidwell said.
Anderson said city and county snow plow crews also worked closely with ambulance crews in responding to ambulance calls. “The interagency cooperation was much better during this storm than it has been in the past,” Anderson said.