Blizzard sent many to hospital with weather-related injuries

Blizzard of 2009
2009-12-28T22:15:00Z Blizzard sent many to hospital with weather-related injuriesBy Dolly A. Butz - Sioux City Journal

SIOUX CITY -- Removing monstrous snow drifts from their sidewalks and driveways sent some Siouxlanders to the hospital over the weekend with chest pains and broken bones.

Local emergency rooms reported an increase in the number of patients coming through their doors due to snow-related injuries.

The Christmas Blizzard of 2009 dumped a whopping 20.7 inches of snow on Sioux City, according to the National Weather Service. At the peak of the storm, 8,433 customers were without power, MidAmerican Energy reported.

Mercy Medical Center spokeswoman Dianne Krier said the hospital's emergency room treated patients for fractures and heart problems suffered while shoveling snow. None of the accidents resulted in major injuries, according to Krier.

"It is a terrific stress test to shovel snow," said Dr. Tom Benzoni, an emergency room physician at Mercy Medical Center. "It's very, very hard on your heart, so if you've got heart disease, hire a teenager. If you can't, get power equipment or even a power shovel."

Leslie Heying, spokeswoman for St. Luke's Regional Medical Center, said the hospital's overall census was down during the snowstorm but that emergency room physicians saw a number of injuries due to the weather, including hands getting caught in snowblowers, fractures and chest pains from shoveling.

Within the course of an hour Saturday morning, Heying said, three people came to the emergency room with broken arms.

"The ER, though, has not seen really any cases of frostbite, which is rather surprising, so people are obviously recognizing the signs and symptoms of that and going inside," Heying said.

Darrel Bullock, city inspection services supervisor, said Monday that inspectors would start enforcing the city code that requires property owners to remove snow from the public sidewalk within 12 hours of the time the snow quits falling. The city will cut residents some slack, as long as they are making a concerted effort to clear their driveways and sidewalks, according to Bullock. However, safe walking zones, including school crossings, need to be cleared immediately, Bullock said, for the safety of the public.

"With the depths of the snow, it's hard on a lot of people," he said. "... We have to applaud people for their efforts because it was a deep, nasty snow."

As residents continued to dig out their homes and cars Monday, city crews plowed and replowed streets.

"We are out in the outlying areas that were drifted real severely with lane restrictions," said Sioux City Public Works Director Brian Fahrendholz. "We have a large snowblower and heavy equipment out trying to get some of those pushed back."

Fahrendholz said he expected to begin clearing windrows from downtown streets Monday night. He was unsure when all of the windrows will be gone.

"I've never dealt with this much snow, so it's something that we're just going to play by ear," he said.

Sioux City City Wide Collection will pick up garbage on its regular routes as snow plowing allows. Garbage will be collected in Morningside on Friday.

Residents are asked to hold their trash if the street or alley is not accessible and to put it out on their next regular pickup day. A sticker will not be required on extra trash for the next two weeks.

Paul Nolan, South Sioux City public works director, said snow removal was going slowly there because city workers have to use front-end loaders in some areas.

"You can't push it with a snowplow anymore because there's too much of it," Nolan said of the snow.

Overall, Nolan said he thought his department was doing "very well" considering the circumstances. Main streets were open Monday, and Nolan said workers were clearing secondary streets and cul-de-sacs.

A new snowblower, which Nolan expected to arrive Monday, would help in the effort, he said.

"We're hopeful that by Tuesday or Wednesday we'll have it opened up a little bit better than today," he said. "We hope to haul the snow off later this week."

An official update on snow removal progress in North Sioux City was not available Monday, but a woman who answered the phone at City Hall said workers were busy plowing streets.

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