News From Terre Haute, Indiana

January 7, 2014

Editorial: Heeding winter’s call to arms

In trying circumstances, service was delivered

The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — When a foot of snow and a near-blizzard get dropped on you and snow you in for a couple of days, there’s time to marvel a bit at those who refuse to be snowed in, either by job requirement or by choice.

And so, as the snow gets shoved aside and as the thermometer tops zero, it’s time to offer some praise …

n First to those who warned us, days in advance, that this storm was coming so that we could prepare: the weather specialists such as those at the National Weather Service and private forecasting agencies.

n To the media (print, TV, radio, Web, social) that spread the news of the impending “polar vortex” in ways the public could not ignore.

n To government and school/college officials who seemed well on top of the situation and issued warnings and notice of closings in timely fashion. Among these are city, town and county governments; school officials; and emergency management directors.

n To police officers, firefighters, ambulance drivers and medics who, against treacherous conditions, literally put their lives on the road to respond to such events as wrecks, fires, medical emergencies, impassable and slick roadways, and stranded motorists. Those folks do this every day, but those services are magnified in crises such as the one we have just lived through.

n To radio dispatchers and 911 operators who coordinated emergency responses to calls for help. They also serve who answer the calls, keep their heads and send help. We listen to dispatchers on the scanner every day, and we are often amazed about how quick, calm, clear and comprehensive the central dispatch system is.

n To the local and state road crews who worked under trying circumstances to prepare our roads for the coming storm and then remove the snow and fight the ice. Given snow rates of an inch an hour and unforgiving winds, the crews seem to have stayed on top of the job as well as possible. Theirs is a thankless job, for in every storm someone will find reason to criticize (sometimes justly). Still, our road crews do a remarkable, dedicated job clearing away what nature hath wrought with salt, sand and plow.

n To utility workers who likewise fought the elements to restore electrical power, water and natural gas service where it may have been disrupted. Working atop a utility pole or crawling into a crawl space in sub-zero weather is miserable work, and progress can be slow (especially slow if yours is the power that is out.) But the majority of such workers take their work, especially in such trying times, as public service.

n To hospital and nursing home staffs — nurses, techs, doctors, office and other support — who answered their callings by venturing out to help the sick and the infirm. Some, we know, stayed overnight at their medical facilities so they could be there for another shift to help their patients, rather than risk being trapped at home.

n To tow truck drivers who always face an impossible challenge of pulling vehicles out of ditches, medians and tree lines, but who, in conditions such as those this week, had to do so amid the dangers of snow, ice, blowing winds and sometimes reckless drivers.

n To emergency responders of another kind: plumbers and furnace repair people, who responded to fix broken pipes and no-heat calls.

n To private snow removal employees who worked long and cold hours Sunday, Monday and Tuesday to clear parking lots and plow out driveways.

n To the American Red Cross and other agencies that opened and staffed shelters to comfort those who had lost heat or had no other place to go.

n To homeless shelter staffs that worked to get people on the street to come inside for warmth and safety.

n To pharmacy staffers, convenience store workers, grocers, restaurant staffs and others who opened up to provide needed items: medicine, gasoline, bread, milk, a cup of coffee or a hot meal.

n To good neighbors, who, as Hoosiers and Illinoisans do, looked out for their neighbors — whether that be a phone call to check on an elderly neighbor living alone or plowing out a driveway with a farm tractor or stopping on the road to check on someone with their emergency flashers on — as is the great Midwest tradition. These acts of random kindness don’t make big news very often, but they are as valuable as any because they are given freely without any idea of receiving anything in return except a thank you.

n To the skeleton crew of Tribune-Star staff members and delivery contractors who made sure a newspaper was printed, posted online and — as well as possible, given road conditions — delivered. To never miss an edition is one of the hallmarks of newspaper journalism, and our staff did a remarkable job in the most trying of circumstances, while many of the rest of us were snowed in and could contribute only from home.

The cynics will find fault with our list, pointing out a glaring example of negligence or arrogance within the broad groups we mention. And some will say that these workers were just doing their jobs and that they were in it for extra money or overtime. So be it. Still, most within all of these groups performed exceptionally, and, together, we all got through the worst winter storm since the blizzard of 1978 — thanks to their service to our communities.