Ambulances, police cars and a fire truck got stuck in snowdrifts across Oklahoma City today and slowed responses to wrecks and medical calls.
“We're having to hunker down in disaster mode,” said Lara O'Leary, Emergency Medical Services Authority spokeswoman.
Towing companies have been hopping all day. A man who answered the phone at Jerry's Wrecker Service in Guthrie said he didn't have a minute to talk.
Contrary to common assumption, weather like this does not bring a windfall to towing companies.
“We're not making a lot of money,” said Steve Taft, owner of C&L Towing in Norman. Trucks burn more fuel when moving slowly through deep snow, he said, and there is always damage to tow trucks operating in dangerous situations.
Taft said he'd seen nothing particularly unusual.
“Right now, it's just the dummies trying to drive in it,” he said.
Just after noon, Taft said he was considering equipping the two trucks he had running with snow chains to aid in pulling vehicles out of 3- and 4-foot snowdrifts.
In Edmond, Coy Ivey, owner of Coy's Wrecker Service, said he was seeing the same old thing — but worse. He said he'd seen no improvement in drivers' abilities in his 41 years in business.
People are out driving in hazardous conditions when they should know better, he said, especially during a storm forecast so far in advance.
On the other hand, Ivey said, fewer people were on the roads this time, and some seemed better prepared because of the notice.
Also, the blizzard of 2011 doesn't compare with the Christmas 2009 storm, he said. High winds this time are creating blowing drifts, for one thing, and because of the lack of ice there are different kinds of road hazards, Ivey said.
“The last time, there was such a glaze,” he said, and this time, the best traction is where the snow is deepest and vehicles are getting stuck on high center in the middle of the road instead of spinning out.
Extra crews were called in to help respond to stuck ambulances across Oklahoma City. The crews are in four-wheel drive vehicles as they go to places where ambulances are stuck to try to free the vehicles and rescue stranded paramedics.
A fire truck got stuck about 10:30 a.m. at 1412 SW 96, fire Deputy Chief Cecil Clay said.
EMSA had a report of a patient suffering from hypothermia, or cold exposure, but the ambulance was slowed because it got behind other vehicles stuck in the snow, O'Leary said.
So many Oklahoma City police cars have gotten stuck in the snow that the bomb squad truck has been needed to help stranded police officers.
Very few wrecks have been reported to police.
“The main problem is not people out running into each other,” police Master Sgt. Gary Knight said. “The problem is people driving into snowdrifts and getting stuck.”
Tow trucks and the bomb squad truck are freeing the stranded patrol cars. Other officers could not get out of stations in the Will Rogers and Lake Hefner division parking lots.
“Police officers have the same problems as the general public driving. The patrol cars are two-wheel drive,” Knight said.
Firefighters at Oklahoma City Station 30 had to shovel the driveway before fire trucks could go out to help motorists stuck near the station at 4343 W Lake Hefner Drive.
Sheriff's deputies did not go out in as many patrol cars today, said Oklahoma County Sheriff's spokesman Mark Myers. He did not know of any that were stuck.
After the 2009 snowstorm, the sheriff's department planned to mostly cover their patrol areas and respond to calls in four-wheel drive vehicles. All responses today by sheriff's deputies have been in four-wheel drive vehicles.
“Most of the calls we've had are people getting stuck and needing help getting out of a drift,” Myers said. Troopers were needed to respond to wrecks on Interstates 35 and 40, where traffic was shut down during the morning.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers use snow tires on patrol cars, but several still got stuck. A trooper who was stuck in Tulsa was assisted by a civilian who helped pull him out and return to service. Troopers use SUVs and enlist the help of Lake Patrol troopers in SUVs.
“It's all hands on deck,” OHP spokesman Chris West said. “We have to stay out there.”