Neighbors, strangers save lives, deliver help as snow piles up in ND blizzard
BISMARCK—The Christmas Day blizzard messed up quite a few holiday plans. With 7-foot-tall snow drifts and blockaded streets, it was a recipe for frustration.
But it was also a moment that brought out the best of neighbors, and strangers, in the region.
'He kind of saved us'
When Lory Hellman woke up on Monday morning, her neighborhood in Burleigh County, just east of Buckstop Junction, was stacked 6 feet high with snow.
"I didn't know how long it would take them to plow our street," she said Tuesday morning.
Then a man in her neighborhood, whom she'd met once or twice and knew just as Norbert, came by with his Bobcat. He worked until 10 p.m. to plow everyone out and clear a way to the main road for about 12 neighbors.
"He kind of saved us," said Hellman, a mother of two.
Hellman said her husband managed to hand the helpful neighbor a gift card, but "that's all he would take."
Norbert Guthmiller, of ProBuilders Inc., reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, said he "just did it to help them out."
"They're nice neighbors," he said.
With nearly all of the roads in the region impassable to cars Monday morning, a fleet of volunteer snowmobile drivers ferried doctors and nurses to local hospitals for work.
"With the holiday, they were down to skeleton crews — plus with the weather," said Jim Hulm, a lieutenant with the Burleigh County Sheriff's Department and vice president of the Rough Riders Snowmobile Association.
He said a team of seven snowmobilers picked up about 30 to 40 hospital workers at their homes. They brought the staffers to main emergency routes, where four-wheel drive vehicles or squad cars were waiting to carry them to the medical centers.
The team also brought necessary medication to several people stuck at home, including one diabetic who had gone without insulin for a day or two, said Hulm, who acted as a snowmobile dispatcher on Monday.
The snowmobilers are part of the club's Citizen Emergency Response Team, which assists the local emergency managers during major snow storms.
Brad Erickson, safety director at Sanford Health, said he was "sure grateful," the snowmobilers could help. Nine babies were born at the hospital from Dec. 24-26, and one person needed open-heart surgery.
"The flow of patients was coming," Erickson said. "The only way those staff were accessible was by snowmobile."
Arriving home to a clean driveway
Kate Brovold was stuck at her parents house in south Bismarck from Christmas Eve through Tuesday morning. But Monday night she got a great text from her neighbors: her garage was clear for her when she got home.
"She told me she was stuck there, and, I don't know, she asked me if I could go over there and plow her out," said her neighbor Bob Seams.
Once he got started with the snowblower, a neighbor from across the street came over to help. Then another neighbor from up the street.
"It was a whole group of us," Siems said.
Brovold said that's not uncommon for her neighborhood.
"We all just band together when we can and try to help each other out," she said.