With snow totals of anywhere from one to two feet falling across nine midwestern states along with brutalizing winds, the February snowstorm of 2011 left a 2000-mile trail of misery (and some deaths) all the way to Maine. But, other acts of nature — tales of kindness and generosity — were just as prolific.
100 National Guard troops mobilized statewide in Wisconsin as 7 foot drifts formed on rural roads and white-out conditions stranded motorists. Rescuers in snowmobiles were even getting stuck.
Emergency personnel — police, firefighters and 911 dispatchers, along with thousands of tow truck drivers and snow plow operators — worked through Tuesday’s rush hour, overnight and into the morning to help towns and cities dig out. Yet, perhaps those who worked without pay, with only the motivation to serve, provide the real inspirational stories. (Photo: Helpful pedestrians in Grand Rapids, Mich. by Victoria Fanning)
Homeowners welcomed strangers indoors after roads became impassable and all hope of evening rescue evaporated. One couple near Madison, Wisc, even threw an impromptu ‘blizzard party’ to make the best of it.
Ski goggle-protected Peggy Stormoen and her partner Ann, knocked on a car window at midnight, shouting, “Why don’t you come into the house?” The two women bundled up and offered assistance to five occupants of three cars. They served hot cocoa — and later brandy — for the young guests, the couple told the Wisconsin State Journal. At about 10 a.m Wednesday, tow trucks arrived to pull the cars from the snow.
Good Samaritans were out in full force in Oklahoma, according to a local news website, in many cases, driving powerful four-wheel drive trucks, to help motorists out of snowdrifts.
“Doesn’t seem right to have a truck like this and me sitting in a warm house when people could be out here freezing to death,” explained Josh Fulgium, of Edmond.
In Illinois, the Northwest Herald reported that Colin Chase, listening to the police scanner from home, “heard reports of cars stuck on snowy roadways, so around midnight Wednesday he hopped in his four-wheel-drive Jeep Cherokee and headed out.”
“The police can’t get to them, so who else can?” Chase told the Herald.
And, of course, there are close-to-home angels. Neighbors who, with the benefit of a snowblower, or just a shovel, emerge to help clear driveways for others in their neighborhood.
In Menomonee Falls, Wisc., Beth Fromm’s neighbor plowed her driveway without even asking. She got to return the favor after he went off to work when the city plow came through leaving a mound at the bottom of each of their properties. “We all help each other out,” she said.
Even with as much trouble as severe weather causes, it seems to usher in a warm front, evoking compassion and generosity in most people who see opportunities to help.