Hats off to those who keep things running

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Check out today's "On the Record" and you get a pretty good idea what kind of day police, fire, ambulance, city and utility crews had on Wednesday.

There were more than 70 "power line down" calls alone, and although the majority of them turned out to be cable television lines, every one of them had to be taken seriously. Many of them actually were power lines, and lives depended on a proper response.

"It's like a war zone out there," we heard more than once, and we could understand the comparison. Although the expected snowstorm didn't materialize, the wisdom of dismissing school was apparent to those of us who ventured outdoors. Hardly a minute went by without the sound of crashing limbs, tinkling ice and sirens in the distance. Home was a good place for children to be, despite disruption in last-minute pre-Christmas break schooling.

And it wasn't just older, weaker trees that succumbed to the ice -- branches split from many younger trees, and even evergreens were drooping under the load of ice. Norris Park is covered with fallen limbs, and Kelley Park "looks like a bomb went off," according to one city official.

There should be a good supply of firewood around for a while, anyway, and plenty of work for anyone with a chain saw, pickup truck and spare time.

The worriers among us held our breath while we listened to the branches fall, wondering when the lights would blink and stay out for good. It was too late, but many of us scrambled around to run a supply of water, find batteries for the flashlights and think about ways to stay warm.

Meanwhile, while we sat in our warm, comfortable homes, watching television or surfing the Internet, we wonder how many of us thought about those who were making that possible.

While a number of individual homes in McCook elsewhere around the county are out of power, the outages weren't as extensive as they could have been. Most should be back on line by the weekend.

The shivering line workers who were securing downed power lines and restoring service. The firefighters and police officers who blocked traffic, secured the scene and responded to regular calls under grueling conditions. Scores of people who pulled double shifts, keeping our infrastructure functioning while the rest of us went about our business, or just stayed home, safe and warm.

Too often, we take them for granted.

Let's let them know we appreciate their sacrifice and dedication.

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