Kansas National Guard Called Out to Help Blizzard Victims
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 31, 1998 It was ironic. The Kansas Army and Air National Guard had planned an Emergency Awareness Week Fair March 8 at the state capitol, but Mother Nature had other plans.
Guardsmen set up display booths and equipment demonstrations around the capitol in Topeka. But instead of a day of fun, a late winter blizzard swept across northeast Kansas and blanketed some areas with up to 10 inches of snow. High winds created 6- to 8-foot snow drifts in some areas, said Army 2nd Lt. Dave Young of the Guard's public affairs office.
The governor activated the state emergency operations center March 8 when the blizzard stranded motorists and made travel dangerous. Guardsmen of the 2nd Battalion, 130th Field Artillery and the 35th Military Police Company and airmen of the 190th Air Refueling Wing manned roadblocks in northeast Kansas to allow Highway Patrol troopers to get some rest after being on duty for many hours, Young said.
"Guard members endured wind chills of 23 degrees below zero for up to 12-hour shifts," Young said. "Drifting [snow] and large dark patches of ice made for dangerous road conditions, causing numerous automobiles to go out of control. Guardsmen assisted some of these occupants which were stranded in ditches or involved in accidents."
En route to help civilian law enforcement officials patrol snow and ice-covered roads, Young and his public affairs crew stopped along the way to check "a bunch of cars, eight or nine in ditches along a two-mile stretch, to ensure no one was trapped inside."
They had to dig snow from around the car windows to see inside. "Fortunately, no one was trapped in any of them," Young said. "We mainly manned road blocks to stop people from going into areas where they'd get into trouble.
"We didn't get involved with accident victims because we didn't go out until after 7 that night and most folks were home. In other areas in the northeast, Guardsmen helped law enforcement officials respond to stranded motorists and helped deliver meals to the elderly."