January 7, 2014

OUR VIEW: Heed the warnings and stay home


---- — We watched and reported as cities and counties throughout our coverage area declared states of emergency as the winter storm got progressively worse on Sunday. With the road conditions deteriorating with each passing hour, we fully expected area leaders to take that course of action. Anyone with a window should have expected the declarations to be made.

But we must say we were quite dismayed it took Cass County officials so long to make the right call. Looking at a statewide map of counties’ declared status, Cass County was awash in a sea of red. Every county touching Cass had upgraded their status to red, meaning no one was to be on the roads except for emergency vehicles. You had to go several counties away on that map to find anything but red.

And there’s good reason for that. It’s bad out there. No, it’s horrible out there. A blizzard warning was even declared for our area. As if the massive amount of snow falling wasn’t enough of a problem, plow crews were also being hit hard by blowing and drifting snow. They were fighting a losing battle. Even though the snow has stopped, they still find themselves fighting a losing battle with high winds.

And if Mother Nature wasn’t causing enough problems for road crews on Sunday, abandoned vehicles blocking roadways weren’t helping their cause any. The drivers of those vehicles found out the hard way that this isn’t your average winter storm. Efforts that should have been focused on clearing the roadways were being spent on rescuing stranded drivers. And in many cases, they were drivers who shouldn’t have been out in the first place.

This is a whole new beast we’re dealing with, folks. Plow crews are encountering snow drifts measuring 2 to 4 feet deep. They’re finding four-wheel drives can’t even make it through. And considering as such, a state of emergency should have been declared much earlier than it was.

But the blame doesn’t rest solely on the shoulders of county officials. Yes, they should have made the call sooner than they did, but citizens need to make the right call for themselves. And let us not forget the role business and industry leaders play in all this. Corporations need to do what’s best for their employees.

No one should feel pushed beyond their comfort level when the roads are this bad. We heard from many readers who didn’t want to get out into a storm such as this but felt they had to because their job could hang in the balance. Even if the county hadn’t made the call, company leaders should have made the right call. And, many of them did. We got reports throughout the evening Sunday of factories and businesses shutting their doors. Good managers making good calls likely saved a life or two on Sunday.

But for those not taking this winter storm seriously, we can’t plead with you enough to change your mind. This storm is dangerous and everyone needs to be on top of their game. The safety of everyone depends on it.

THE ISSUE Cass County's delayed declaration of a state of emergency. OUR VIEW This storm is dangerous and everyone needs to be on top of their game.