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Friday, April 18, 2014

Winter brought out the best in us

Public employees worked tirelessly on our behalf, people — oftentimes perfect strangers — looked out for one another and we met our challenges with ingenuity.

Posted on Feb. 23, 2014 at 12:43 p.m.

We made it.

After all the snow emergencies, delayed snow emergencies, snow days, two-hour delays, blizzards and minus-30 wind chills, the sun came out last week.

People walked outside into the warmth, looked at each other and smiled.

“We made it,” they said.

And after a long winter, that’s something to celebrate.

To be sure, spring doesn’t start until March 20 and next week’s forecast calls for overnight lows near zero Wednesday and Thursday.

Details, details. We prefer to spend a few minutes reflecting on the determination, the decency and the creativity that helped us endure the last two months.

Snowplow drivers worked around the clock when the snow flew, refusing to allow the area’s main streets and roads to become impassable. Sure, that’s what they’re paid to do. But when the weather was at its worst, our street crews were at their best. Their dedication never flagged.

One Elkhart snowplow driver even braked to avoid a dog, earning the gratitude of the animal’s owner.

Yet despite the best efforts of the street crews, some area drivers still got stuck. And when they did, other motorists stopped to dig and push them out.

In neighborhood after neighborhood, people showed up with shovels and snowblowers to clear driveways for those overwhelmed by the snow and ice.

The relentless cold finally began to freeze lateral water lines to dozens of area homes.

“One other time in the late '80s, we had a spell where we had some frozen services, but nothing like what’s going on now,” Nappanee utility superintendent Gale Gerber told an Elkhart Truth reporter. “This is the deepest I’ve seen frost in a long, long time.”

Many neighbors allowed homeowners without water to tap into their lines. But in Goshen, city workers came up with another solution.

Workers dig out the lateral, cut into it and inject hot chlorinated water to melt the ice.

John Hutsell, construction supervisor for the water and sewer department, told an Elkhart Truth reporter that the workers fabricated the pump and developed the strategy themselves. They deserve a MacArthur Foundation genius grant.

The warmer temperatures last week brought thunderstorms and flooding, but the community was ready. Elkhart distributed 3,000 sandbags Thursday, and street department employees worked overnight to fill more bags.

In some ways, this winter brought out the best in us. Public employees worked tirelessly on our behalf, people — oftentimes perfect strangers — looked out for one another, and we met our challenges with ingenuity.

We made it — and that’s something to celebrate.

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