Carbon County Volunteers Are Working Round the Hour Rescuing People In the Latest Arctic Storm

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy Country Daily

Mike Lujan said he’s lived in Carbon County his whole life, and he’s never seen a storm like this.

“I’m old,” Lujan laughs. “I listen to 70’s rock and roll, okay? And I don’t know if it was the worst, but it was as bad as I can remember.

It was so bad, said Rawlins Search and Rescue volunteers, that even an emergency services vehicle needed salvaging.

“We have sheriff’s deputies who are out of the way, so we are helping them,” Lujan told the Cowboy State Daily. “And we have an ambulance stuck, so we have to take an ambulance.”

Snow drifts are another world, according to Lujan.

“We fought a six-foot drift across the interstate, and I’m not exaggerating,” he says. “Maybe it took us four hours to cover 15 miles.”

Team Effort

Lujan and his fellow volunteers are among dozens of people working around the clock to restore power to remote communities and to rescue stranded workers in the oil fields. He and his fellow volunteers even help nursing homes to provide food to vulnerable adults.

“Our members help with small things, which are actually big things,” said Lujan. “Meals on Wheels for senior citizens, we have to help provide food for those people, and we commute people to the hospital to work. All of those little things make up a big piece of the puzzle.

Sheriff Alex Bakken praised the various agencies responding to the emergency on his official Facebook page.

“Carbon County really came together last night in the face of an undeniable extreme weather event,” Bakken posted on Thursday. “Crews from multiple agencies worked through the night into the morning, ensuring all critical rescues were completed and everyone returned home safely.”

From rescuing stranded workers in the oil fields south of Creston Junction, to providing assistance to residents without heating and electricity, personnel from Carbon County Roads and Bridges, Wyoming Highway Patrol, Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT), Baggs Fire Rescue, Valley Search and Rescue, Classic Air, Rawlins Search and Rescue, Carbon County Emergency Management, and Sheriff’s Office Personnel stay busy Tuesday morning through Friday.

Lujan greatly admired the leadership in keeping the emergency response organized.

“When you see a police chief helping motorists all day long, and you have a newly elected sheriff who has to work snowmobiles, that speaks volumes,” he said. “I mean, he lives out of town and has to drive his snow machine into town to help out.”

Haglund’s Transport

A possible tool for recuperating for residents of the small town of Bairoil is a recent acquisition by Carbon County – the Hagglund is an over-the-road workhorse capable of traveling in snowy conditions at near highway speeds.

Lenny Layman, Carbon County emergency manager, said the vehicle was delivered to Carbon County a few weeks ago – the perfect time to be useful in this dangerous storm.

“This is a two-unit tracked vehicle that is articulate – like a snowcat, but it can go at high speed on the highway and on the highway,” Layman told Cowboy State Daily. “And it’s also an amphibian.”

Layman said the vehicle cost about $180,000, but every dollar was worth it, in his view.

“We took ownership of it late last year, and now have over 80 hours,” he said. “It’s our main tool used for search and rescue.”

But one Hagglund wasn’t enough to cover the entire county during this storm — Layman said additional Hagglunds were on loan to the area from Laramie County to make rescues near Hanna while Carbon County was tied at Bairoil and Muddy Gap.

Neighbors Help Neighbors

Lujan said he was inspired by the many people he witnessed helping their neighbours.

“(I saw) people in their private vehicles keeping other vehicles from getting stuck, and helping their neighbors shovel snow and shovel their roads,” said Lujan, “so these little women, bless their hearts, can get out when we get service for them. they .”

Lujan described how he and his colleagues rescued an elderly woman from her RV at one of the campgrounds.

“We physically carried a sweet 94 year old little lady into our tracked vehicle and drove her to the hotel because she had no food or heat,” said Lujan.

Layman said community cooperation helped reduce the number of rescues which could further constrain district resources.

“We’re doing a travel advisory for Carbon County, we’re not asking for unnecessary travel, and I’m sure that helps,” he said. “Most of our residents appreciate that.”

Laymen also made recommendations that county commissioners declare a state of emergency, allowing resources to flow from state to county.

“It was a very large collaborative effort between the regional commissioner, regional clerk and myself in homeland security,” he said.

Sheriff Bakken pointed out that without the cooperation of residents and emergency workers, the aftermath of the hurricane could have been much worse.

“We want to thank all of you who stepped up and came together to help the people of Carbon County last night,” he wrote in his Facebook post. “Without your teamwork, yesterday’s events could easily have ended in tragic results.”

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