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Ref: Midwest storm tests Indiana responders

South Bend Tribune

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Homeland Security sets up local center during blizzard

Tribune Staff Writer

PLYMOUTH -- While Marshall County residents were taking stock of survival items during Tuesday's blizzard conditions, so were many Marshall County officials.

The only difference was that Marshall County's Emergency Operations Center had to answer to the state's Department of Homeland Security every six hours, beginning Monday, and the survival items included manpower and snowplows.

"The state kind of orchestrated everything," Clyde Avery, Marshall County Emergency Management Agency director, said Wednesday afternoon. That was after he'd had a little sleep following an all-nighter pulled at the EMA building on Walter Glaub Drive.

Avery said the state -- which established shelters for stranded motorists and various means of transportation to get those motorists to the shelters -- made a conference call to EMAs across the state at 4:20 p.m. Monday.

"They indicated they were going to activate the state EOC," he said. "And every six hours on Monday, we had to provide status reports 'round the clock."Indiana, a press release issued by the DHS Wednesday stated, asked the National Guard to provide shelters at armories in South Bend, Lafayette, Noblesville, Anderson, Remington, Gary, Lebanon, Delphi, Rensselaer, Fort Wayne, Marion, Muncie, Huntington, Bluffton, Peru, Angola and the Fort Wayne Air Base.

Avery contacted Jon VanVactor, Marshall County sheriff; Tom Chamberlin, Marshall County commissioner who would stand in for vacationing commissioners president Kevin Overmyer; and Neal Haeck, Marshall County Highway Superintendent. Avery also contacted the Marshall County Chapter of the American Red Cross.

"We were in close communication through the whole thing," Avery said of the coordinated effort that he called a "good test" because it was unexpected.

Avery said area Red Cross officials had lined up snowmobilers ready to transport medications and other survival items, as well as people, if it came to that, to area hospitals.

"Boy, I just want to give kudos to the county highway crews, too," Avery said, "They did a really good job of getting those secondary roads open."VanVactor said Wednesday morning that, despite the potential for human disaster, he was grateful that people listened to officials and stayed off the road. Although sheriff's deputies had to use extra caution, he said, there were no critical situations of which he had been made aware.

"We're learning from this," Avery said, obviously glad that no true crisis emerged from what could have become a deadly situation.

"As long as you don't have the situation where people get stranded, and cars are stuck everywhere, that's good," he said. "I went home about 7 a.m. today and slept awhile. We now know how we have to organize for the next one."
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