Riding the Storm Out or Thank You for Staying Home

I’ve lived in Michigan virtually all of my life so the idea of snowfall isn’t too big of a deal.  But when the meteorologists are calling  for a blizzard, which hasn’t happened since 1999, even I have to take notice. 

I know that weather prediction is as much an art as a science.  They use computer modeling to try to predict what the outcomes of a storm may be which is fairly accurate. We like things to be precise but predicting snowfall just isn’t.

So we have to trust that a blizzard warning might actually mean that we could get a blizzard.  And a blizzard to us means that we have develop a plan to meet the needs of the community when it is difficult to get around.  We started planning for this one first thing on Monday to assure that we would be ready.  Our plan is an actual written plan that is developed by our Executive Command Staff, in this case, Lieutenant Jim Manning.   

In our plan we do our best to foresee what might happen and get the people and equipment ready that we think we’ll need.  A storm is a predictable event so we have plenty of time to take the steps that will make our plan work.  For example, Sgt. Rick Leonard sent his day shift out on Monday to go through the neighborhoods to ask that cars be moved off the streets in anticipation of the declaration of a snow emergency to help the city plow truck drivers work efficiently to clear the streets.  He also had officers moving vehicles off the freeway shoulders for the same reason. 

We called our personnel and asked them to come to work prepared to stay in case they were not able to get home after their shift.  That means that they have made a  plan for their families and should bring extra clothes and personal supplies.  We had food brought to the station since we believed that it was possible that there wouldn’t be any stores or restaurants open during the storm.  We secured some cots for those who might stay over.  We also check our partnerships to understand what they were planning as well so that we work together.  On Tuesday I met with Fire Chief John Burmeister, Senior Director Karen Adcock and DPS Director Ron Melchert to coordinate.   DPS and Community Development provided us with some additional 4 wheel drive vehicles so that we had a better likelihood of getting around.  Karen made sure that she was available to open the Community Center in case we needed to shelter people if there were extended power outages.  John made sure that the stations were staffed and FD was ready. 

Fortunately, the storm turned out to be of a much lesser magnitude than we had feared.  The combination of people staying home and off the streets plus less snowfall than predicted helped us tremendously.  For the 24 hour period of midnight Tuesday to midnight Wednesday we recorded only 5 traffic crashes and 5 road run offs (much fewer then on a dry day).  We did make one arrest when an 18-year-old girl ran into a ditch at the height of the storm because she was intoxicated.  Fortunately it was only a ditch she ran into.

Despite how hard it was snowing and blowing, every one of our scheduled personnel came to work on time.  One decided to sleep here to make sure he was ready to work for his 0700 shift.  One dispatcher stayed in a hotel across the street to make sure she was here.  The others 4 wheeled it to work and every person was here, prepared to go to work.  Detectives were here an hour before the start of their day because they left home extra early expecting bad driving conditions.  They all know that when conditions are bad, they will be at work – no question.  Our families know it too and we are grateful that they make plans to assure that they can take care of themselves while we are at work.

We appreciate the dedication and reliability of our staff.  I’m glad that conditions were better than I expected but I want you to know that we were ready–whatever happened.