Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Genoa City police battle blizzard

by Steve Targo

February 10, 2011

Genoa City — For most people, the world shuts down on a snow day. A brief but mandatory vacation, once worries of digging yourself out have been laid to rest. But during the Groundhog Day blizzard, police officers didn’t have the luxury of downtime. In Genoa City, where estimates have the snowfall total from the storm at about 20 inches, officers helped stranded motorists and helped people clear snow.

A lifetime Genoa City resident, Village Police Chief Ralph “Homer” Bauman said some drifts were about 5 feet deep. He estimated in other areas, spots were between 14 and 16 inches deep. “It was a lot of snow and I don’t even know how you’d get a measurement on it because of the wind,” Bauman said.

But was it the worst snow storm ever? Depends on who you ask. “In all honesty, this reminds me of how winter was when I was a kid,” Bauman said. In e-mails Saturday, Feb. 5, Police Sgt. Mike Sireno said the storm also jogged his memory. “(It’s the) worst I remember since the 1979 storm when I was picked up for work on a snowmobile and spent three days sleeping in the fire station because the roads were closed,” Sireno stated.

According to Sireno, he and other officers who worked the night of the blizzard had their work cut out for them. “It was terrible after about 9 p.m.,” Sireno stated. “Luckily, I was done at 11 p.m. Myself and Officer (Lee) Redlin got stuck and needed assistance. (It snowed) so hard at times visibility was less than two blocks. Most of the night, it blew sideways.”

According to Sireno, Redlin and officer Mike Lauderdale rescued several stranded motorists and brought them to the Village Hall. But police were as much victims of the snow as they were heroes.

Sireno stated he became stuck while on patrol and was shoveled out by a group of residents who happened by. Redlin became stuck helping a motorist in the snow and was pulled out by a Village Public Works Department plow.

On Tuesday, Village Public Works Director Todd Schiller said police squad cars couldn’t manuever well in the snowy terrain. “They came and got one of my 4X4 pickup trucks,” he said. Bauman said after his shift that day, as the snow began to fly, he went out with his snow blower and cleared several village sidewalks. The benefits of his accomplishments were short-lived. “The wind blew so hard and so much snow came down that you’d never be able to tell I had been there,” Bauman said.

He said about 20 stranded motorists had been taken to the Village Hall. According to Bauman, they had been picked up in areas throughout the village as well as areas along Highway B and Williams Road. One police officer stayed at the Police Department, another remained on patrol. Bauman said the last of the stranded motorists left around 10 a.m. At least Sireno was able to make it home this blizzard. In 1979, he wasn’t so lucky. “I don’t remember the amount (of snowfall) but I know several cars were buried because we went out with Fire Department members that came to the fire house with snowmobiles and drove over the roofs, never seeing the cars,” he stated. “At the time, I lived in Pell Lake and had to get picked up at (what is now) Upper Crust by snowmobile. Spent three days sleeping at the fire house.”

Bauman said he remembered that storm. He shared a similar experience. Back then, he worked in the town of Bloomfield. On the night of the 1979 blizzard, he was alone on duty. “I could move around,” Bauman said. “I could get between Genoa City and Pell Lake, but no one else could get in to relieve me … so, for two days, I was on duty.”