Jerry Davich: Cold weather brings out heartwarming tales
JERRY DAVICH January 6, 2014 5:12PM
Worried about the weight of the snow, and wanting to uncover the roof vents, Gary Goins of Valparaiso shovels snow off the top of his house on Monday. | Jerry Davich/Post-Tribune
Updated: January 7, 2014 8:28AM
Darla Kupsis left her job at St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart just before a “code white” warning was issued to workers on Sunday afternoon.
While eastbound on County Road 700 North in Portage, Kupsis’ car got stuck in the swirling snowstorm that hit our region. The 51-year-old Valparaiso woman was following a snow plow, but it didn’t help. The plow got stuck, too, along with a few other hapless vehicles.
Minutes, then hours, passed by with no rescuers on the way. Instead, nearby residents on snowmobiles stopped to check on those stranded motorists. They brought them snacks and drinks. They even brought gasoline to one motorist whose car was on empty.
“My mom had her car phone so she could at least keep in touch with us,” said Alyse Kominakis of Valparaiso, Kupsis’ daughter.
Finally, after being stranded for nearly seven hours, a South Haven firefighter on a snowmobile transported Kupsis to a waiting rescue truck for a ride back to the fire station. There, she ate chili, warmed up and spent the night.
Kupsis arrived home Monday morning in fine condition and very appreciative of all the strangers who helped her during the ordeal. She suffered only mild frostbite from the snowmobile ride, and her car was unburied on Monday morning.
“It was a terrible situation but she was so happy with how everyone came together to help each other,” Kominakis said.
This was a common theme I heard again and again during the snowstorm and also on Monday, when the arctic blast hit our region. With temps well below zero, and a wind-chill factor of minus-35, some brave souls ventured outdoors to battle the harsh elements, including Jim Sommer.
I drove past the Valparaiso man on Calumet Avenue, just north of the city, as he operated a tractor to plow his 10-acre property.
“I’m trying to find room to put all this snow, but this wind is just brutal,” he told me.
Brutal or not, Sommer wasn’t the only region resident to risk frostbite, or worse, by leaving the cozy comforts of his home. Gary Goins of Valparaiso was standing in a peculiar spot – his rooftop.
“I’m shoveling off the heavy snow to get a little weight off the roof, and also to clear the vents to the attic,” he told me.
Valparaiso, like most cities in Northwest Indiana, looked as white as a ghost town. Porter County looked like it was dipped in marshmallow fluff by Mother Nature herself.
The roads were cleaner than I expected but only dotted with vehicles, most with plows. Most restaurants were closed, including a McDonald’s, which surely signals a “state of emergency,” if not the looming apocalypse.
Most stores, however, were surprisingly open, including Walgreens, CVS, Town and Country Market, Kmart and Wal-Mart, where I stocked up on daily necessities – fresh bread, Coke and cupcakes. Most gas stations were open, too.
I can’t remember the last time that such long stretches of I-80/94 and I-65 were both closed to traffic due to snow. But most other roads I used were very clean, considering the state of emergency that was issued.
Radio reports issued repeated warnings to “stay home” or risk your safety (and possible fines!), but I hadn’t been home since early Sunday afternoon. I had to return to get my car, shovel my driveway, and check on my home’s power and water pipes.
When I noted this seemingly suicidal trek on social media (wondering if U.S. 6 was passable), several people blasted me for being outdoors at all. I found this interesting, even amusing.
“Stay home means STAY HOME,” one reader told me.
“Do you really NEED to be outside today,” another reader commented.
Although I’m touched by the concern of others for my safety, and for public safety, I doubt this was the case. To them, I was violating societal rules, and possibly the law, compelling them to tell me in no uncertain terms.
Still, I had two deadlines on Monday: First, to return home and, second, to report on whatever I could find along the way for today’s column and my social media posts.
I was hoping to find a runner or two, squeezing in their daily run against all risks. But maybe they ran in the early morning as usual, dangerous temps be damned. I wouldn’t put it past them.
Finally, I want to give an early “Congratulations” to all those region couples who will become new parents in, oh, about nine months from now. Warm soup, hot chocolate and “Breaking Bad” reruns are all cozy and fun but, historically and eventually, other more primal pursuits come into play.
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