To the point week of 2/8/07

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EARLY THIS WEEK brought many surprises to Switzerland County, with brutally cold temperatures over the weekend preceding a blowing snowstorm on Tuesday afternoon and evening - and all of it resulting in what can best be described as a “mess”.

Schools opened late on Monday and Tuesday because of the cold temperatures; and then closed an hour early on Tuesday when the storm began. Some stores chose to close a little early so that employees could make it home before the full effect of the snow storm hit; and schools were officially closed for Wednesday early in the evening on Tuesday.

The first round games of the girl’s sectional at Milan were postponed from Tuesday until Wednesday, and as of the time of this writing, there was still no word as to whether or not the games would be played on Wednesday.

I spent Saturday morning at a middle school girls basketball tournament; and then Saturday evening doing some snow tubing at Perfect North Slopes with my church. (I hate to provide free advertising, but if you’ve never been snow tubing, it’s well worth the time. My kind of sledding, fast and icy; and then a conveyor belt takes you back to the top.)

Getting home late Saturday night, we discovered that our furnace had gone out, so we all piled into one bedroom with a space heater to spend Saturday night.

Thankfully, by the time we got home from church on Sunday morning, the “Furnace Fairy” had been to my home and fixed the problem, and through the day our home got warmer and warmer as we headed to Super Bowl time.

For many of us, winter weather and snow falling is a wonderful thing, because we can sit inside and stay warm and just rest.

But this isn’t a column about being warm and cozy in our homes. Rather, it’s about looking out the window at falling snow and waiting on a phone call that tells you that you have to go drive a big truck all night long.

It’s about getting a call that someone’s life is in danger and they are in need of emergency medical attention; so you scrap off your car and head to the emergency unit to get an ambulance to go and help them.

It’s about driving a patrol car on roads that no one should have to be on in order to protect the public; and it’s about getting out the big red truck and going to a home on fire and working in the bitter cold through freezing ice to try and save what you can.

For many people in Switzerland County and in other areas, snowy days cause a knot to come into their stomachs because they begin to think about the possibilities that are out there.

The Switzerland County Highway Department and employees do a heroic job of clearing off roads and bridges; and this week’s winter weather has proved that to me once again.

Now, I understand that there are people who live in our county who have trouble understanding why their road isn’t the first one plowed; but if you step back and think about it - it’s amazing that things get done as efficiently as they do.

There’s 21 guys using nine trucks trying to keep almost 400 miles of roads cleared off. Now anyone who has driven around our fair community knows that Switzerland County isn’t known for its straight, flat roadways. There’s hills and valleys and curves that would make a sailor sick. There are bridges that Noah built right after he finished the arc; and some of our gravel roads might best be passed by horseback rather than horsepower.

Our county officials have done a wonderful job in laying out a long term plan for the replacement of those bridges and the paving of those paths, but wise use of riverboat revenues means that we can’t get it all done instantly. We have been smart in how those funds have been used, and over a period of a few more years, our roads will be paved and our bridges will be replaced.

But that doesn’t do anything now, and for hours on end these workers are out there plowing and spreading cinders and salt and melting ice so that we can all have a better chance of getting to work the next day.

No one can control what nature throws at us, so everyone needs to be a little patient and understanding when it comes to getting roads cleared and travel resumed.

Along with those workers is the effort given by law enforcement personnel and by the volunteers who man the emergency units and fire departments. Heart attacks aren’t limited to summertime and clear weather; and fires don’t only happen on warm spring days.

The worst things happen to people at the worst times; and we should all be thankful that we have people who are willing to come and help us when we need it most. No one says that the roads are too bad for the ambulance to drive down; and no one tells you that your house will just have to burn because they can’t find anyone to drive the truck.

Likewise, law enforcement, from the town to the county to our state police are always on duty; seeing to it that lives and property are protected 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Holidays and cold nights don’t stand in the way of getting the job done.

So the next time you look out your window and watch the snow falling and cars sliding, take time to remember those people who are out there making it safe for all of us and keeping us safe, as well.