SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
I’m once more struck by the idea that Indiana is one of the luckiest places to live in the country. Even when we get hit by a blizzard, the weather is still better than it is in other parts of the United States: They had more snow to the south and east, and tornadoes in the Deep South.
Not that I was thrilled about the blizzard. Nobody ever froze to death in a tornado.
Still, we only got about seven inches of snow, give or take, and while that’s a lot more than we usually get these days, it’s a lot less than we could have gotten. In the Blizzard of ’78 we got, oh, I don’t know, ten feet or so, with 80 mph winds, and the sun didn’t shine for nearly a year. The drifts were so high that anyone who climbed to the top of them suffered from oxygen starvation; they didn’t melt off until August. Now, that was a storm.
Another good thing about the latest storm is that for once I wasn’t sick when it struck. On January 3, 1999, I had a 102 degree fever the morning I got home from my full time job. A howling wind blasted sheets of snow through town as I walked across the street to my part time job, at Albion’s video store. I should have called in sick, but I figured I could muddle through a quiet six hours, knowing nobody would be crazy enough to endanger themselves in that weather just to rent videos.
It was the single busiest day in that store’s history. Apparently people were afraid they’d be stranded in their homes and have to -- *gasp* -- talk to each other.
A couple of years ago I came down with strep throat, and again a major snowstorm hit. At one point I pushed a lady’s van out of the snow bank that forms in front of my house (actually, most is piled there by State plows), then literally collapsed just inside my door, gasping for air. I’m thinking it was a good thing I made it inside, because freezing to death’s pretty much my worst nightmare.
No illness this time, though – that fun came in January, this year. That’s good, because I awoke Valentine’s Day morning to discover the wind had not deposited the drift that usually forms right in front of my garage. Instead, it had left a much bigger drift further down the driveway. I could get my car out of the garage with ease – but I could only drive twenty feet. Quickly I made a list of people I knew with snow blades, or at least snow blowers. Real quickly. Then I broke out the hand shovel.
Am I crazy? Well, I’ve been through several dozen of these storms and I still live in Indiana, so yes. Besides, I’m a volunteer firefighter, which means being able to leave my home in a hurry is a requirement. The irony of that, of course, is that by the time I was finished shoveling I was in no condition to fight a fire. Still, a glass of hot chocolate and a dose of Doan’s Pills and I was ready to …
Well, let’s just say my Valentine’s Day present was a heart colored hot water bottle. It was very romantic, having a warm body pressed against my back.
For me, something that happened the previous night stands out about the Blizzard of ’07: In the midst of the storm, we got a call of smoke inside North Ridge Nursing Home, on the north side of Albion.
This is pretty much a firefighter’s nightmare scenario. Clouds of snow being blown sideways like a sandblaster, roads drifted shut, nighttime, and we’re faced with not only fighting a fire, but rescuing the possibly bedridden residents of a nursing home and taking them – where? I can’t tell you how relieved I was when it turned out an evacuation wasn’t needed.
But help came out faster than my ears can go numb. A lot of people who didn’t need to leave their warm, cozy homes in the midst of a snowstorm showed up, whether it was their job or not. I don’t think I’ve seen so many trucks with snow blades in one place in my life, and just down the street Brazzell Funeral Home offered to take the residents in, so I have no doubt we could have moved them quickly and safely.
(By the way, that was an outstanding offer, to shelter for an unknown period the people who have so far taken residence at North Ridge. Just the same, I can’t help wondering how I’d have felt if I’d been rescued from the nursing home, only to find myself being wheeled into a funeral home. I think I’d have waved my arms around and yelled, just to be on the safe side.)
One of the great things about Hoosiers is that when trouble strikes we don’t wait for FEMA, the National Guard, The Coast Guard, the Guardian Angels, anybody – we just go out and take care of each other. Of course, the National Guard was probably busy with that nine feet of snow they were getting in New York State, anyway.
Have I mentioned how lucky we are?