Emergency and law enforcement systems waged war with the elements this weekend to protect citizens and provide services.

“It was eerie quiet. We got excited when we saw a PSO truck come through,” said Hope Poplin, dispatcher for Inola Police and Fire Departments, speaking of the power outage that left the town in darkness for close to twenty-four hours. Dispatchers fielded over 300 calls of people reporting the power outage.

According to Inola Police Chief Brad Craig, police and fire departments suffered power outages for about 30 hours, but residents did not do without service.

“We went through three generators,” said Craig. “We couldn’t have done it without the cooperation of everybody. The fire department was a big help to us. They helped us get everything, the radio and phones, back online.”

Tuesday night the Inola Fire Department was still fielding calls related to the storm that had held residents hostage all weekend. At 4:24 p.m. they were called to assist a citizen with a broken femur who had fallen on the ice. At 5:50 p.m. a call went out on an accident with injury on Highway 88 two miles north of town. The vehicle in question was a semi truck that was sidelined near the railroad track. Two wreckers were called in from Claremore to extricate the semi. For a time, Hwy 88 was completely blocked off. Pafford Emergency Services was also on the scene.

This, coming on the heels on what had to be an exhausting weekend for the all-volunteer fire department.

“We lost power on all our fire stations, but we have several generators,” said Inola Fire Chief Barney Grigg. “We were able to operate.”

The IVFD fielded calls to check on the elderly and for medical assistance. Grigg reported that in one instance the Rogers County Sheriff Department delivered insulin to Inola and the IVFD used a four-wheel drive to deliver the medication to the person in need. It was hard to get anywhere due to icy roads, but the department got the job done. Most of the trouble firefighters dealt with involved downed power lines. Fortunately, only one vacant shed burned, and no one was injured.

“We were really lucky,” said Grigg, but he admitted that for some rural residents, the trouble isn’t over yet. “Some people who live out in the country where stuff is really torn down could be out [of power] for another two weeks “

Inola Mayor Cheryl Charles said that she felt most residents had the good sense to stay in and not be out on the roads.

“Saturday night I went through two cell phone batteries and was hoarse,” she said. “My main concern was keeping the sewer system and emergency services up and running.”

Charles explained that if the sewer lift station stops operating it could become very unsanitary. She and other city sources said that the city water was never a problem.

“Rural Water 2 has backup,” said Charles. “And our water tank would have gotten us through. Rural Water two didn’t drop the ball. Of all the problems I had, I never had a water problem.”

Despite power outages and downed lines, Charles commended electric provider, Public Service of Oklahoma.

“PSO did a fantastic job,” she said. “The guys were wonderful. It’s a cold nasty job. I have no complaints about PSO. You’d see 10 to 12 guys working like elves in bright vests and stocking caps, their chain saws going.”

According to Charles a 137,000 volt line at Inola Landing (formerly known as Black Fox) went down which caused the primary outage in the town. She praised Ray Cooper, the PSO contact person. She is also proud of the police force. All three officers worked extra hours, staying on duty to check on businesses and to assist stranded vehicles. Dispatchers also pulled extra duty.

Craig praised the community in general. “People here pitch in to help without being asked,” he said.

Catoosa did not suffer power outages, but icy streets were certainly an issue.

“Normally, we would have had power outages,” said Catoosa Police Chief Raymond Rodgers who attributes Catoosa’s good fortune to tree trimming contracted by PSO last summer.

“My first concern is always for public safety,” said Rodgers. “We were out there to assist with motorists having difficulty.”

Rodgers stated that they received a number of calls for public assistance with minor fender benders and cars that had slid off the roadway or were blocking the roadway.

“This type of weather enhances public need when it comes to services that they need for safety,” said Rodgers. Getting the eight officers who live in rural areas to work was an issue, but even off-duty officers reportedly assisted people who were stuck.

The department’s four-wheel drive, all terrain vehicle was a boon for the weather. The chief hopes the city can find money in the public coffers to add another one to his squad soon. Some areas in Catoosa are, according to Rodgers, “almost impossible to get into.” He cites the area from south 193rd East Avenue on Pine west to Lynn Lane as such a trouble spot.

“It’s extremely hazardous,” he said. “You need four-wheel drive to handle it.”

Catoosa Fire Chief Denus Benton reported that the major issues his department faced included difficulty getting to calls on icy roads and resulted in a delayed response time. “We have to watch that the water in the trucks doesn’t freeze up,” added Benton.

According to Benton, most citizens are driving cautiously and there were no injuries.

Verdigris fared the storm very well.

“We didn’t have any problems this weekend,” reported Verdigris Fire Marshall Tony Williams. “We had a couple of fender benders and that’s it. Everybody stayed in.”

“We didn’t lose power,” said long-time Verdigris resident Curtis Rohr. Rohr lives in a rural area. “We can’t get up the country roads. My truck wouldn’t get out of here.”

Clean up and road maintenance continues. Catoosa Mayor Curtis Conley said that he expects four more loads of potash to come in tomorrow. Like most cities, his deals with the main arteries firsts, then starts on outlying areas. Catoosa Vice Mayor Mike Appel commented that suppliers were all running low on materials.

At 9 p.m. Tuesday evening, a truck attached with a grader was traversing Highway 88 between Claremore and Inola, clearing the way for safer travel.

This Week's Circulars