Storm made for rescues, adventures of many types

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Gazette Staff
Friday, February 8, 2008

Would snow keep paramedics from reaching a woman bleeding from the back of her head Wednesday?

In a time of crisis, local workers stepped up to rescue others.

And rescues during the massive snowstorm that hit the area Wednesday took many forms.

Response for 911 call

Danica Dupree slipped on the stairs and hit her head before passing out Wednesday night at her home on South Parker Drive in Janesville.

Her 6-year-old son, Mikey, thought she was dead, so he called 911.

When Rock County Dispatch called back to the house, Dupree had regained consciousness and said she was OK.

But she wasn't. An hour later, she still was bleeding from the cut on the back of her head. She also was experiencing head pain and was dizzy. Worried, Dupree called Ask-A-Nurse, which told her to seek medical help but not drive.

She hesitantly called 911.

"I really did not want to go (to the hospital) and was worried they (Janesville Fire Department paramedics) weren't going to be able to make it (to me) because of the snowstorm," Dupree said.

But they did thanks, in part, to the department's new 2008 four-wheel drive Chevrolet Suburban mobile command vehicle.

"It was a godsend," said Bill Ruchti, shift commander.

"If I would have had to use the previous (mobile command) van, I would have been camped out in the station.''

Instead, he took a co-worker in the new mobile command vehicle and dropped him off at Dupree's house where she could be treated until an ambulance arrived.

Two ambulances got stuck trying to get to the house, Fire Chief Larry Grorud said. Nevertheless, the Suburban arrived at the house about 10 minutes after the initial call.

A fire department pickup truck also responded to the scene at 9:30 p.m. to plow the area and a path to Dupree's house, Ruchti said.

Grorud said the plow freed the second ambulance, which arrived about 18 minutes after the call, and then the first ambulance.

Dupree was relieved.

"It's nice they were able to come get me and take me safely to the hospital,'' she said.

Mercy Hospital's Emergency Room wanted Dupree to stay overnight, but she found a ride home.

"I just wanted to get home,'' she said.

She did and was resting Thursday afternoon in the warm comfort of her home.

Aid for an ambulance

At about 1:30 a.m. Thursday, at the height of the storm, a private ambulance was dispatched to the 1600 block of North Concord Drive in Janesville for a 98-year-old man with a back injury.

The private ambulance got to the intersection of Black Bridge Road and North Concord Drive and turned back. The drifts and the bank of snow created by the plows made it impossible to get through, explained a family member.

A city of Janesville ambulance was dispatched at about 3 a.m., was able to blow through the drifts, reach the man's home, but then got stuck in front of the house.

Janesville police officers and city plows helped the ambulance get out and on it's way to Mercy Hospital at about 3:30 a.m.

The man was treated and released from the hospital.

Janesville Fire Chief Larry Grorud said the general policy is for plows to clear the route from the main road to the side street.

Meals for 2,000

She never expected she'd be there for 16 hours straight.

And she never expected she'd serve up more than 2,000 plates.

But it didn't take Francine Marr long to realize that Wednesday's snowstorm made the Edgerton Oasis ground zero for thousands of truckers and their rigs.

Marr started her shift at 7 a.m. and within about an hour, every seat in the Winchester Restaurant was filled. And as the snow made travel more treacherous by the tick of the clock, more truck drivers sought refuge at the popular stopping point at Highway 51 and Interstate 90, she said.

"It never stopped," Marr said. "I'd never seen anything like this."

The parking lot was full, with semitrailer trucks parked wherever they came to rest on the slippery roadway.

"I've never seen so many semis," said Capt. Adam Walton of the Edgerton Fire Department.

When they ran out of room in the parking lot, drivers started parking their rigs along Highway 51. Eventually the line of trucks reached all the way to the M&I Bank, 1015 N. Main St., Edgerton, a distance of almost 2 miles.

The storm ground travel to a halt, but Marr said the truck drivers who came to the restaurant were calm.

"They knew they weren't getting anywhere," she said.

The only trouble was that some food items were in short supply; before the night's end, there were no more spaghetti noodles and almost no bread left.

Overnight food runs for motorists

Friends Nick Schumacher and Bryce Hinkel of Edgerton spent several hours Wednesday night getting food and water to motorists stalled on Interstate 90/39 during the snowstorm.

Kwik Trip of Edgerton donated all of the water and some of the food. Betsy Thompson also donated some food and the Sundowners Snowmobile Club made some of the food, Schumacher said.

The guys made 10 trips on their snowmobile and All-Terrain Vehicle between 11 p.m. and 1:30 a.m.

Salt for stuck truck

He thought he'd just pull over and be on his way when the storm let up.

He was wrong.

Ken Burleigh spent a day and a half stuck in the parking lot of the Comfort Inn at Highway 59 and Interstate 90 in Newville.

After dropping off a load in Rockford, Ill., around 6 p.m. Tuesday, the truck driver slowly made his way north. He was headed to Fond du Lac, but only got as far as northern Rock County before the roads were too dangerous for even a veteran trucker.

Burleigh could feel his tires losing traction against the accumulating snow.

"It was getting nasty," he said. "It was too crazy to try and get any farther."

Burleigh parked his rig around the back of the hotel and checked in. He watched motorists brave the slippery conditions from his second-story window, from which he could see the Interstate. He glued his eyes to the television and realized the storm wasn't ending anytime soon.

Burleigh fired up his truck Thursday morning and drove it back and forth to create tracks in the snow. His first task was to make it up a slight hill that curves to the right. He gunned it and spun out.

He waited hours for a tow truck to pull the semitrailer truck backwards up the hill.

Burleigh's next task was to make it up the even steeper driveway.

"I got halfway up and started sliding back," he said.

Had his truck been carrying a heavier load, he might have had more traction and made it out sooner; but 1,300 pounds just wasn't enough to combat the ice hidden underneath the snow.

Salt was on its way around Thursday afternoon, and Burleigh hoped to reach Fond du Lac by night, where he planned on checking into another hotel. But he won't return home to Windsor, Ontario, before finishing his route through Sheboygan and Milwaukee.

Gazette reporters Shelly Birkelo, Kayla Bunge and Catherine W. Idzerda contributed to this story.

Last updated: 9:52 am Monday, December 17, 2012

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