Deadly snow brings out extra efforts

By Wayne Bryan Originally Published December 30, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated December 28, 2012 at 4:12 p.m.
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John Bomar of Hot Springs walks along snow-covered Ledgerwood Road on Wednesday, following the Christmas winter storm that dumped more than a foot of snow on parts of the Tri-Lakes Edition coverage area.

“Everyone wants to see a white Christmas, and this was the first one in a long time,” said Matt Brumley, director of Saline Memorial Hospital’s ambulance service. “But when it comes to getting out and helping people and getting people where they need to be safely or for any emergency service, it is not something to be desired.”

According to the National Weather Service’s North Little Rock office, Saline County received 8 to 11 inches of snow over a layer of sleet and freezing rain, making travel dangerous, blocking streets and roadways with trees and heavy snow, and causing one weather-related death in Benton.

A man whose identity had not been released as of press time died after 1 a.m. Tuesday, according to the Benton Police Department.

“A large oak tree fell on a house on Bass Lane [and] onto the man sleeping in his bed, killing him,” Lt. Kevin Russell said.

Brumley said one person was rescued by ambulance-crew members

after running a car off into a ditch and between two trees and being stranded for almost 12 hours.

On a happier note, there was an ambulance call early Wednesday morning during which a baby was born, he said.

Saline Memorial has been providing transportation for hospital personnel since Christmas morning.

“On Monday, Everett GMC offered three large, four-wheel-drive vehicles to move out people,” Brumley said. “They came to us, as they did last year. That’s amazing.”

He said he and other drivers moved doctors, nurses and housekeepers to and from the hospital.

“Anyone who is needed to keep the hospital going, we are going to get,” Brumley said. “This slowed down until about 2 o’clock in the afternoon, and we kept it up until about 1 a.m.”

In addition, he said, Saline County residents with health concerns have been calling the hospital and the Fire Department with fears that they will not be able to get essential medications or services such as oxygen.

“We have been trying to make sure they can get what they need,” Brumley said. “When they call, we try to get them to warm churches and other places of comfort. I know if I needed oxygen and I saw the tank was getting low, I would be anxious.”

Brumley said the hospital staff feels prepared for times of crisis and depends on everyone to do what is needed for the community.

“Some people have run 40 hours straight before another team takes over,” he said. “You can tell when people know what they need to do, when you can walk away for a while and get some sleep, knowing it will be OK while you are gone.”

In Hot Springs, the engineering department members of National Park Medical Center were also transporting personnel to work, said Mandy Golleher, marketing and public relations coordinator of the medical center.

“We carry doctors, nurses and therapists, all the essential personnel,” she said. “Many of the staff spent the night at the hospital so we could have plenty of coverage when things got bad.”

Golleher said the medical center has also seen an influx of people who are without power.

“It started Christmas night, and we issued pillows or blankets,” she said. “These people are accustomed to coming here.”

National Park Medical Center had to reschedule some surgeries, and there have been more weather-related injuries, but not more cases than normally seen at the hospital’s emergency room.

The snow was deepest in the Jessieville community. The National Weather Service reported that 15 inches of snow fell in that area, and the Garland County Sheriff’s Office reports it could take a long time for the roads to clear.

The roads are still hazardous out there, Deputy James Bairett said.

“No trees are down blocking the road, but because of all the trees around, no sun is really getting to the roads to cause any melting,” he said.

Arkansas State Police in Hot Springs said ice-covered trees had fallen into the road, forcing parts of U.S. 70 to be closed or restricted for several days. Meanwhile, by Thursday morning, Interstate 30 was open and clear from south of Malvern through Clark County, although bridges and overpasses would thaw during the days only to refreeze at night, said Stacy Shirley of the Hot Springs State Police post.

Statewide messages urging people to stay home seemed to be working, she said, with no accidents reported to the trooper post in more than 12 hours after a day of heavy snow and a hard freeze.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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