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Cold weather slows area to near standstill

Tuesday, January 7, 2014 - 11:06 am

Below zero temperatures, blowing snow and closed down roads have left about 200 truckers stuck at the Fort Wayne Truck Plaza, 3037 Goshen Road.

Clarence Sidberry, of Knoxville, Tenn., said his drive Sunday night through Indiana was terrible. The roads were snow-packed, the wind was relentless and blinding snow lowered visibility. He doesn't have much farther to go; his load is to be delivered to the Nestle plant. But the plant was shut down, and he was parked at the truck stop. With plenty of fuel in his tank, he was just waiting it out. He figured it will be Tuesday or Wednesday before he can get out.

John Lohmuller, of Bluffton, said he was on his way to pick up a load of steel at SDI in Columbia City on Saturday afternoon, but decided it would be better to be stranded at the truck stop than in SDI's parking lot, which has no services. SDI has been closed until Tuesday morning. Lohmuller was driving a flatbed truck and said the trip across US 224 to Interstate 69 was very bad. He could only maintain a 20 mph speed. Because he was towing an empty flatbed trailer, the wind played havoc with him.

“It's not the best vehicle for the snow,” Lohmuller said with a smile.

A trucker since 1999, he was philosophical about the wait. He has driven through worse conditions but he keeps trucking because he likes the variety that each day brings and the challenges he has to meet with his driving skills to get the job done.

Hailing from Bellamy, Wash., driver Brian Wilson had run his truck out of fuel and was stuck on Coliseum Boulevard along with a whole line of trucks that couldn't make it into the truck stop, no room. He was preparing to get fuel and some help to restart his rig. He had traveled from Pennsylvania on Sunday, and run into the storm halfway through Ohio. After that his speed was reduced to 35 mph. Wilson said in his past he had spent seven years on a research ship in Antarctica and had encountered warmer days there than Monday's temperatures.

In downtown Fort Wayne, streets were nearly empty as most residents stayed home. Scott Stockert, a postal worker, was making his way through drifts on North Wells Street on his rounds. Stockert said he was barely keeping warm.

Down at the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Community Center, 233 W. Main St., Daniel Demland was taking advantage of the warming center. Demland, who is homeless, said most days he will spend a half-hour at the center in the morning while he waits for the Allen County Public Library to open, but Monday the library was closed, and so was St. Mary's Soup Kitchen, where he usually gets his noon meal.

Sunday night Demland, 65, camped in his tent as he does every night. He said he was warm enough. He carries three sleeping bags and Sunday night he slept in two of them and on top of the third. He said inside his tent it's not too bad.

“The wet snow yesterday was worse; everything I was wearing got wet,” Demland said.

Fortunately he had extra clothing to change into.

“You just have to know how to dress for it,” Demland said.

The Red Cross has two emergency shelters. Sunday night, the shelter at the Salvation Army on North Clinton saw five people, while the shelter at the Public Safety Academy, 7602 Patriot Crossing, saw no one.

Terri Beauchot, volunteer shelter manager for the Red Cross at the academy, said they had been feeding the snow plow crews.