Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Remove Images

Blizzard brings out best in emergency services

by Rob Ireland

February 10, 2011

Walworth — During last week's blizzard, emergency service volunteers expected calls for car accidents and stranded vehicles.

Then there was a call for a woman whose water had broken. She was in labor and an ambulance had to drive through the storm into rural Walworth.

Rescue Chief Jim Schwartz, Capt. Rhonda Schwartz and volunteer Austin Schwartz jumped into the ambulance and traveled roughly three miles to a home in Walworth Township.

At the residence, they were met by a Walworth County plow, which removed snow to help guide the ambulance to Lakeland Hospital to ensure a successful delivery.

The snow was falling so fast that Jim, who was driving the ambulance, was only able to follow the plow because of the yellow light on top of it. At the same time, Rhonda assisted the woman in labor.

To complicate matters, the windshield wiper broke on the passenger side of the ambulance. Austin had to use a clipboard to wipe the snow away.

However, despite the challenges, Rhonda said the woman was brought to the hospital before she was ready to give birth. At the hospital, duct tape was used to repair the windshield wiper until it could be replaced at the station.

Prior to the storm, Walworth Emergency Service Director and Police Chief Chris Severt said he and others spent time preparing for the storm.

"It was a long night, but nobody was injured and nobody was hurt," he said.

Severt said a meeting was held between himself, Rhonda and Jim, Walworth Public Works Director Tim Boss, Town Chairman Joe Abell, Police Lt. and Fire Chief Andy Long and Walworth Township Road Superintendent Mike August to plan for the storm. He said supplies were stocked and arrangements were made to have six snowmobiles available, which included borrowing some from local residents.

Troy Hummel and Brent Wilson, both teachers at Walworth Elementary and members of the snowmobile club, assisted police by allowing them to use their snowmobiles.

"They actually helped us do a couple of rescue retrievals for stranded vehicles," Severt said.

Throughout a 24-hour period, Severt said emergency workers pulled 35 to 40 people from vehicles that were stuck along the side of the road. If four-wheel drive trucks could reach the motorist, they were used. However, in some cases, snowmobiles were needed.

Police took the motorists back to their residences, places of employment or the Fontana Inn. Severt said the Fontana Inn reduced its rate to $40 a night because of the storm.

"They even took in several people who couldn't pay," Severt said.

Severt said 25 volunteers assisted during the snow storm, including 20 that stayed for a 24-hour period.

The Walworth County Sheriff's Department handles calls for Darien and Sharon townships, but volunteers from the village assisted during the storm.

Severt said Walworth responded to calls as far away from the station as the Show Palace.

Other emergency calls

Police received five fire calls and six rescue calls during between 6 p.m. Feb. 2 and 6 p.m. Feb. 3, Severt said.

"All of the fire calls were carbon monoxide alarms going off," he said.

At several homes, snow drifts blocked furnace vents and needed to be cleared out.

The rescue calls ranged from headaches to abdominal pains and a motor vehicle accident. Severt said the accident was a direct result of the weather, but instead was caused by medical condition.

Closing Highway 14

In attempt to avoid more stranded vehicles, Severt said Highway 14, both south and north bound, was closed.

He said this was done around 4:30 a.m. However, within a half-hour, motorist had run over the barricades.

After this, squad cars were placed on the highway to prevent cars from continuing to traveling down the road. The road was reopened around 7 or a 8 a.m.

Severt said the National Guard and DNR snow mobile patrols were expected to come to the village to assist in rescue calls, but they never made it.

"We were literally on our own," he said.