Jamestown ambulance, street workers preparing for snowstorm
A blizzard warning has been issued for April 4-5 for the Jamestown area.
JAMESTOWN – With blizzard conditions expected for Tuesday through Wednesday, April 4-5, personnel with Jamestown Area Ambulance and city street department employees are making preparations for the potential heavy snowfall event.
Jamestown Area Ambulance personnel do a lot of prep work before snowstorm events including coordinating with other emergency responder groups, said Andrew Berkey, operations manager.
“We communicate very closely with our dispatch center (Stutsman County Communications Center), make sure the plows are on standby,” he said.
He said the last couple of snowstorms, Jamestown Area Ambulance personnel needed a plow to escort them to the locations where they responded.
“A lot of the times during snowfall like this, we won’t go anywhere outside of the city without a plow escort,” Berkey said. “The last couple storms even to get within the city, we had to have plows in front of us.”
He said ambulance personnel have winter survival bags, or “72-hour bags,” that include protein bars, water and extra clothing in case an ambulance gets stuck.
“You have to be under the assumption that especially if you are in the rural areas, that nobody is getting to you for three days so you better have enough with you to sustain yourself for that long,” he said.
The National Weather Service in Bismarck issued a blizzard warning for Tuesday through Wednesday for Burleigh, Dickey, Emmons, Foster, Grant, Kidder, LaMoure, Logan, McIntosh, Morton, Oliver, Sioux and Stutsman counties. The blizzard warning is set to expire at midnight Thursday, April 6.
The blizzard warning says to expect blizzard conditions with total snow accumulations between 8 to 18 inches with locally higher amounts possible. Winds could gust as high as 65 mph.
“It’s definitely going to be a significant, maybe even historic snow for the James River Valley in April,” said Matthew Johnson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Bismarck.
A strong Colorado low moving into North Dakota and South Dakota is expected to produce widespread impacts across the area, Johnson said. He said the snowfall will start anywhere between 6 a.m. to noon on Tuesday in the Jamestown area.
“After that, snow accumulations will continue on into Wednesday with the greatest snow amounts being seen probably Tuesday night into Wednesday morning,” he said. “With the system moving out behind late Wednesday evening for the Jamestown area.”
He said high winds are in the forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday, and wind gusts could be anywhere from 50 to 60 mph.
Rick Lipetzky, Jamestown street foreman, said his crew is making sure all of the snow-removal equipment are fueled up and have oil in them.
“We will definitely be ready to go when it comes time,” he said.
Lipetzky said his crew will wait and see how much snow the city gets before plows are out and removing snow.
“If the emergency routes need to be cleaned, we will clean them as needed,” he said. “If it gets tough going down Main Street, 10th Street, we will windrow that up in the middle. If we can get enough help and enough equipment, we will pick that up during the day, just do what we can. We definitely will be busy.”
If there is a winter storm warning, he said two workers will be available all night to help keep the road to Jamestown Regional Medical Center and emergency routes cleared. He said the overnight workers can also help other emergency responders if they need to get somewhere.
Berkey said the plow drivers are “amazing” and will do everything in their power to get ambulances to where they need to be.
“I remember a year ago or so, we had two of them escort us. It was really bad and one got stuck and the other guy kept us going,” Berkey said. “Those guys undoubtedly saved someone’s life that night because that was also a heart attack call.”
If it appears that an ambulance cannot get through snow, Berkey said quick judgment calls have to be made during snowstorm events. If someone is having a heart attack or is in cardiac arrest, ambulance personnel can’t afford to wait 10 to 15 minutes, he said.
“Then it’s a matter of do we try to get through this with the truck that we do have, do we try to do it by foot, do we try to get a snowmobile,’” he said. “It’s a matter of what type of emergency is waiting for us and what are pros and cons of if you do try to put a truck through that weather and it gets stuck and really stuck and nobody can get that truck out, now you’ve lost that ambulance for the remainder of that storm, so there’s a lot of things that need to be thought about in these situations.”
Berkey said snowstorm events increase the danger to emergency responders, including a mixture of reduced visibility and bad roads and driving. He said the last few snowstorms, he has been on scene during a couple of significant pileups on Interstate 94.
“I happened to be out at both of them when we had numerous patients and the interstates were blocked off and cars were sliding all over the place,” he said. “Those are very, very dangerous situations to be at. That is where first responders end up in the most accidents because people can’t stop or they are driving too fast or they are too busy looking at the scene instead of looking at the road and they clip a responder.”
Lipetzky said residents need to be patient with snow removal. Currently the city of Jamestown is having trouble getting enough drivers for nine city trucks to help with snow removal. He also said having two people available overnight also means they are gone for 12 hours the next day.
“It can take me a couple of hours to find five truck drivers, six truck drivers,” he said. “If I can’t find truck drivers, then I have to take part-time truck drivers and then I have to take my employees who I need to do other things and just put them in trucks. It’s either that or hire independent truck drivers.”
During winter snowstorm events, Katie Hemmer, airport director, said Jamestown Regional Airport makes sure the snow and ice are removed from the runway so the surface conditions are as good as they can be.
“We have great both full-time and part-time seasonal staff that come out here very early in the morning working very late into the night for snow events and to get everything clear and ready to go so that as soon as an airline can make the call to land, there won’t be any surface conditions that prevent that,” she said.
She said the airport does not have any authority over flight cancellations or delays.
“The airlines are going to make the decision about whether they can land in the conditions,” she said. “They are going to take into account visibility, wind speeds and also surface conditions.”
If cancellations or delays happen, the airlines offer options for the passengers to fly out of a different airport or if the flights can be rescheduled to be flown out of the same airport. She also said Jamestown Regional Airport is often affected by weather in other parts of the country.
“If they end up really delayed because of weather and they aren’t able to accept aircraft at the time, we could still be delayed because of weather in Denver,” Hemmer said. “And then, we can also be delayed by weather actually in other places of the country because these aircrafts often have to be in different locations, not just between Jamestown and Denver. They may be out somewhere else and if for some reason they can’t get back to a hub or get out to the next destination, that can cause an impact for our flights too.”