By Craig Hastings
I’m beat, I’m tired, and I think I’m done with wind and snow for a while. I’ve done two eleven hour days in a row this week. Not that bad if you’re not pushing cars out of snow drifts and chasing truck drivers down across parking lots as they walk away from their trucks parked in some ridiculously unsafe place. It’s cold and that makes my over sixty year old bones and muscles pain me. Tuscola doesn’t get very many of these snow storm events where motorists are forced off the highways and left seeking parking and shelter wherever they can for a night or two.
So where do you put 300 semi tractor trailer combinations in little Tuscola? Here, there, and everywhere is the short answer. Two of us started herding the trucks by noon on Wednesday and it never stopped until late Friday. This year we had some help. In years past we weren’t able to utilize the Outlet Mall parking areas due to fear that the heavyweight of the big trucks might do damage to the surfaces. Fair enough. But remember that was a time when sixty plus stores were operating in the Outlet Mall. Even if there was no fear of surface damage we certainly wouldn’t want to block the flow of traffic each day customers were coming to Tuscola to shop at the stores. I don’t have to tell any of you familiar with the Outlet Mall that there are just a handful of stores left operating in the entire complex.
Tuscola is a magnet for motorists in fear of being stranded during winter storm events. It’s been this way for at least as long as the Dixie Truck Stop era. I think because we have Rt36, Rt45, and I57 all intersecting here it’s a given that we experience a title wave of motor vehicles of all types when snow and ice are causing the roadways to become dangerous. This week was no different except I think we parked more semis this time than ever I can remember. And I’ve worked every single snow/ice event for all of my forty-one years. My side kicks Rich and Butch sissyed out on me a few years back by retiring. If not they too would have been right alongside me doing what all three of us had done since the late 70’s. Heath and I control the mayhem now. Heath doesn’t care much for this detail. It stresses him more than he should let it. Probably when he’s done a few more of these storm events he will settle in like us old guys. Could be there will be yet another storm this year.
As big an unorganized mess it might appear had you gotten out and driven by, there is one goal we must try to achieve. Everywhere we park these semis and cars there has to remain one pathway to maneuver an ambulance to wherever it might need to go. The four truck stops were all overwhelmed this year and they all were complaining about their properties being blocked for the normal services they provide. Unfortunately it has to be. Rt36 cannot be shut down through town and that would happen if the parking areas of these truck stops weren’t being utilized for stranded trucks. Trust me when I tell you we make many of the truck drivers angry when we tell them they have to move and follow one of us to a new location. This time it was Fuel Mart that suffered the most random parking problems causing the highway to be shut down briefly waiting on a tow truck. Believe it or not, it doesn’t take much to stick a semi in a snowbank. Well it’s over this time. No ambulance calls within the mess, no fires within the same, and only one fire plug was knocked off its pedestal out in the mall. Fingers crossed March weather doesn’t brew another one of these up. The police department thanks our administrators and council for moving our fleet from two wheel drive sedans to all wheel drive SUVs. The difference it makes in our ability to handle these emergencies is immeasurable.