Seek Emergency Aid for Snow-Blitzed County From Indiana National Guard
By Jo Rector, City Editor
Local officials will ask Gov. Otis R. Bowen today to open the National Guard Armory north of Warsaw as a shelter and allow National Guard equipment and men to be used in emergency and rescue missions in Kosciusko County.
County Civil Defense Director William Chapel said at 10 a.m. today that he and city and county officials could seek emergency assistance from the Indiana National Guard to help victims of the worst blizzard in the history of the county.
"We have contacted the National Weather Service and learned that winds are expected to increase in velocity to 50 miles per hour and that temperatures will continue to slide down far below zero," Chapel said. "At this time we have agreed to seek assistance from the National Guard through Gov. Bowen and are considering other emergency procedures to prevent tragedies and try to keep the number of victims of this blizzard at a minimum.
Chapel said weather and road conditions were becoming so fierce by 10 a.m. that even four-wheel drive vehicles were getting stuck and becoming stranded. "We hope the governor will release the National Guardsmen and their equipment so that their heavy trucks may be used for emergency and rescue operations," he said.
Blizzard conditions struck here in the early morning hours and were preceded by heavy snows that began as a gentle, large-flake snowfall about 9 p.m. Thursday.
At 3 a.m., when heavier snowfall was dumped on the county, temperatures rose to 18 degrees above zero. By 4:30 a.m., the thermometer had dipped to 10 degrees below zero, and predictions are that temperatures will fall to as much as 25 degrees below zero tonight.
A county civil emergency declared Wednesday afternoon by the Kosciusko County Commissioners because of high winds and drifting conditions on all county and state roads, remains in effect today.
Commissioner Fredrick Gilliam, president of the commissioners, this morning warned motorists to not attempt driving on county highways because all had been closed by heavy snowdrifts.
Civil Defense Director Chapel established a command post at the City Building, Market and High streets, to coordinate search and rescue missions by police, firemen, highway crews and dozens of volunteers.
Radio stations WRSW AM-FM went on the air with emergency broadcasts at 5:38 a.m. today, and continues to issue complete information about school, work and meeting closings plus other emergency information. Normal sign-on time for the stations is 6 a.m.
Chapel sent out an urgent request over WRSW for snowmobile units and four-wheel drive vehicles with plows to help police rescue stranded motorists and bring emergency personnel into the hospitals in Warsaw.
By press time Chapel had listed the names, telephone numbers and locations of more than 30 volunteers, most of whom offered the use of their equipment for whatever rescue work needed to be done.
Additional lists of volunteers were being logged by county police.
In North Webster, Civil Defense Director Dick Mitchell announced that emergency vehicles and snowmobiles are standing by and that cots and food are available for storm victims at the North Webster Fire Department.
Chapel said Mrs. Maxine Wiley, chairing REACT activities on Channel 9 on citizens band radio, had helped coordinate, with assistance from scores of CB radio enthusiasts, transportation for nurses and doctors to Murphy Medical Center, Kosciusko Community Hospital and area nursing homes.
Pierceton Fire Department crews, equipped with four-wheel drive vehicles, transported the Raymond Slone family from Stump Trailer Park near Pierceton to the home of a relative in Warsaw because the family was running low on fuel and had a sick baby in the home, Chapel said.
County Highway Department drivers were matched with their snowplows and dispersed throughout the county to stand by for emergency service only. Highway officials and Gilliam said attempting to plow roads, except in dire emergencies, would be fruitless unless the snow-whipping winds, which hovered between 25 and 30 miles per hour with stronger gusts, would settle down.
Chapel said that while he and county and city officials strongly urged that all persons stay home and off the roads an announcement over WRSW this morning that many motorists on the highways would be arrested was untrue.
The announcement apparently originated from the City Building but with the authorization of Mayor H. Dale Tucker. Kosciusko County Police reported to WRSW that the message was received by them over their emergency radio frequencies.
Mayor Tucker did urge motorists via the radio station to stay off the cities streets so that city plows could clear thoroughfares for the use of ambulance and Warsaw Fire Department equipment.
Business in Warsaw and the county was at a virtual standstill. Most retail stores and other services closed their doors.
Officials of the United Telephone Co. urged customers to use their telephones only in extreme emergency conditions since the phone company's lines are overloaded. The telephone switchboard at The Times-Union was deluged with calls as was the phone at the radio station transmitter site.
Telephone calls also strained the boards in the County Police communications center and at police headquarters in the City Building.
In addition to the closing of all public schools in the area, Grace College and Theological Seminary in Winona Lake was forced to cancel classes.
Although most retail stores in Warsaw are closed, the Ace Hardware store on East Center St. has stayed open with a skeleton staff to service emergency needs.
Emergency announcements about the progress of the storm and procedures for all Kosciusko County residents to follow will be given over Radio Stations WRSW AM-FM. All residents are urged to tune to the radio stations for the announcements.
East Market Street outside the Civil Defense command post in the City Building is deserted today, at the urging of Mayor H. Dale Tucker who is asking all city motorists to stay off the streets so that snow removal operations may commence.