Blount EMA commends area residents for actions during snowstorm

Last week’s snowstorm may have come as a surprise, but Blount County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) director Max Armstrong said the residents of Blount County did well at taking care of their own during the winter weather event.

“Calls for service were less than expected,” Armstrong said. “Taking care of yourself and your family is the norm for Blount County.”

With little to no warning before the impending storm last Tuesday, people across Alabama and throughout the Southeast went about business, and schooling, as usual.

Once the snow began to fall, it was too late for many. Drivers were stranded for hours in Birmingham, Atlanta, and other major cities. Fortunately, Armstrong said he wasn’t made aware of one person in Blount County who was stuck in their vehicle for an extended period of time.

Nevertheless, as expected, 911 received numerous vehicle accident calls.

According to 911 director Caleb Branch, on Jan. 28 and 29, the call center received 229 calls for service during the event. Seventy-seven of those were vehicle accident reports, 20 were motorists in need of assistance, and 23 were medical calls. Calls increased 25- to 30-percent, according to Branch, but no serious injuries were reported.

“The call volume increased because no one knew it was coming,” he said. “By 11 a.m., we were very busy, but that subsided at approximately 6 p.m. By Wednesday, we received almost no vehicle accident calls because people weren’t traveling.”

During the event, the 911 center was fully staffed for 36 hours, according to Branch.

Many 911 calls were from residents asking about the weather, but Branch encourages people to not call 911 unless there is an emergency.

“The call center is reserved for emergencies, but we do have other ways to get questions answered,” Branch said.

Blount County EMA can be contacted through Facebook (Blount County Alabama EMA) and Twitter (@BlountEMA) or by phoning 625-4121. During weather events, residents are encouraged to direct their questions or concerns to those outlets.

Armstrong also thanked the Blount County Rescue Squad for being a reliable resource during the storm. The rescue squad brought medicine and other supplies to those in need and helped in transporting residents in non-emergency situations.

Additionally, the Red Cross opened two warming stations – one at First Baptist Church in Hayden, which reportedly housed ten families, and the World Outreach Center in Oneonta.

Oneonta public safety director Brandon Horton said the residents of Oneonta also did a great job of taking care of each other.

“This hit us fast, and it is in our nature to be friendly whether it is helping a person on the road or taking care of our neighbor.” he said. “The people of Oneonta are tremendous in this way.”