Residents stay safe during dangerous storm.

January 31, 2019

Residents stay safe during dangerous storm.


By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

OCEANA COUNTY – Although it was one of the worst winter storms in at least a decade, Oceana County people were smart and stayed safe, law enforcement officials said.

The storm shut down all Oceana County schools as well as several businesses and organizations, including the Oceana County courthouse.

“I am quite pleased with people staying home and staying off the roads,” said Oceana County Sheriff Craig Mast.

“People staying off the roads helped tremendously,” said Hart Police Chief Juan Salazar. “A lot of businesses closed.”

A polar vortex with arctic conditions brought in brutally cold temperatures, high winds and heavy snowfall.

The last time West Michigan saw “blizzard-like conditions” such as these was over 10 years ago, said Oceana County Emergency Management Coordinator James Duram. “The biggest problem was visibility due to the dry, light snow,” Duram said.

“It was one of the longest lasting storms we’ve had in quite a while,” he said. A winter storm warning issued by the National Weather Service began at 1 a.m. Monday, Jan. 28, and continues through Thursday, Jan. 31, at 7 p.m.

“People were smart and heeded the warning,” Duram said. “They made good decisions. It could have been a lot worse. There were no major pileups on the expressway (in Oceana County). I’m very happy with how everything went.”

No one died as a result of the frigid conditions.

“There were a few situations when people did not need to be on the road,” Mast said, but overall, residents played it safe.

“The road commission has done a super job taking care of the roads,” Duram said, “as well as the local DPWs for the villages and the City of Hart.”

There was one situation of an elderly couple in a dire situation at their home in Colfax Township, Mast said. Fortunately, Deputy Mike Fillips came to the rescue and helped the couple find a safe place to stay. They had no heat or water and were running out of food. Fillips was able to quickly get the 92-year-old woman and 86-year-old man into an assisted living facility.

“The situation was bleak,” Mast said. “The woman said she didn’t know if they would have lived to the weekend.” Fortunately, a concerned citizen contacted police to check on their wellbeing.

Police have been making several wellbeing checks around the county to make sure everyone has food, water and heat, Mast said.

The sheriff is concerned with the “drastic warm-up” predicted for the weekend. “The back roads could get very icy.” He urges citizens to “remain cautious.”

Duram said he is also concerned about “localized flooding” with the weekend warm-up. “The ground is frozen, so where is all this water (from melting snow) going to go?”

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