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Last updated: Thu. Feb. 06, 2014 - 06:53 am EDT

City digs out from 9.6 inches

Snowfall snarls travel, strands workers | School extends further into June

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School closings

Fort Wayne Community Schools, East Allen County Schools, Northwest Allen County Schools and Southwest Allen County Schools are closed today.

Some health care workers spent the night at their workplaces while others helped plow, shovel and push stranded motorists and vehicles out of snow banks, driveways and ditches Wednesday after the latest winter storm to belt northern Indiana.

The National Weather Service said snowfall totals measured 12 inches in Kosciusko County and 11 inches in Columbia City.

Fort Wayne had received 9.6 inches by 4 p.m. Wednesday, said meteorologist Evan Bentley at the National Weather Service in Syracuse. That brought the total for this winter to 52.2 inches and pushed this season from No. 5 to the No. 2 spot for the snowiest winter on record.

The top spot is held by the winter of 1981-82, when the Fort Wayne area received 61.1 inches of snow.

Sheriff’s adventure

Many people got stuck just trying to drive on unplowed streets.

Allen County Sheriff Ken Fries was off duty and taking his wife to work in his vehicle, which is equipped with a snow blade, about 6:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Fries was near Northcrest Shopping Center when he noticed a city officer using a snow shovel and trying to help a man whose vehicle was stuck in the snow.

Fries stopped and spent about 20 minutes helping, but even after extracting the man’s Jeep Cherokee and getting it back on the road, it was still stuck, Fries said.

“I’m not sure what happened, but he was behind me and stepped on the gas, and it suddenly took off and he rammed the back of my vehicle.

“Of course, he was so apologetic, I felt sorry for him, and when I told him I was the sheriff, he was even more apologetic,” Fries said.

No one was injured, but it caused $2,100 worth of damage to Fries’ vehicle.

After dropping his wife off at her business, Fries drove downtown and noticed people getting stuck in the intersections because the streets had not been plowed.

He plowed out portions of Main, Calhoun and Berry streets around the Allen County Courthouse, he said.

On his way home is when Fries discovered he had no brakes. The accident had damaged a brake line.

He managed to guide it into an auto mechanic shop with no mishaps, he said.

Hospital sleepover

Ed Schmieman, a registered nurse who has worked in the operating room at Lutheran Hospital for six years, was one of those motorists out in the early morning hours, maneuvering unplowed roads to get to his workplace.

He lives in southwest Allen County – usually 22 minutes from the hospital, he said.

“I left 30 minutes earlier than usual,” he said. “The roads were horrible. During a storm, there’s always a chance that some employees won’t be able to make it to work and some will have to work longer hours.”

During the last big snowstorm in January, Schmieman was one of many who spent the night at the hospital, sleeping on a patient cart in the Heart Pavilion.

Although he did not end up spending the night Tuesday, 33 other employees did, said Geoff Thomas, Lutheran Health Network spokesman.

That was also the case at Parkview Regional Medical Center and Parkview Hospital Randallia, hospital spokesman Eric Clabaugh said. About 24 employees worked over or spent the night at the two locations, he said.

School calendars

As of Wednesday, Fort Wayne Community Schools students had missed 10 days because of weather. The district received waivers from the state Department of Education for Jan. 6 and 7 and will not be required to make up those days.

Southwest Allen County Schools will have graduation June 7, but all students will be expected to attend classes June 9, the last day of school, to make up for missed days.

“Graduation is going to be June 7 no matter what,” SACS Associate Superintendent Phil Downs said. “It’s a fixed date, and there’s nothing we can do about that.”

Students will also attend school on Good Friday, April 18, to make up another of the missed days but will have time off for spring break and Memorial Day as planned.

SACS is the only local district that did not apply for a waiver from the state Department of Education, and Downs said they do not intend to apply.

June 6 is the last day of school at Northwest Allen County Schools. If more days are missed, NACS Superintendent Chris Himsel said the district will work with the Department of Education to determine its options, but students will not be asked to attend class on Saturdays and spring break will not be affected.

“Because many, many of our families make spring break plans and reservations more than a year in advance, and after this winter, I think everybody needs a chance to enjoy warm weather when it finally arrives, spring break will not be affected,” he said.

Julie Crothers of The Journal Gazette contributed to this story.

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