EDITORIAL:Seasonal response: Snowplow drivers, first responders and community stand strong against the snow

Jan. 20—Winter has not been kind to the region these past two weeks. New winter storms carrying snow and ice arrive just in time for the weekend and make life less than pleasant.

When snow storms hit the region, the public is urged to stay indoors and off the roads while the plow drivers with the departments of transportation in West Virginia and Virginia as well as the cities work long hours and multiple shifts in horrendous conditions so the region's roads and highways become passable again.

Motorists braving winter driving conditions can help snowplow drivers by staying well back from those trucks while they're clearing the roads and resisting the urge to pass them.

Snowplow drivers are not the only people out in the terrible weather. Rescue squads and members of law enforcement keep responding to emergencies and working to keep the public safe.

People can help the region's first responders by heeding weather warnings and staying home. By avoiding unnecessary travel and keeping off the roads, first responders can do their work more efficiently. By staying home, people can prevent accidents and leave first responders free to handle dire emergencies.

When circumstances call for driving in the snow, people can help first responders by exercising caution. When roads are covered with snow and ice, it's wise to slow down. Be careful not to get too close to other vehicles and above all, be patient. Caution reduces the chances for an accident and becoming more work for first responders to handle. It's a good way to help rescue squads, fire departments and law enforcement.

Julie Lockhart, training coordinator for Mercer County 911, said after the storm that hit on Martin Luther King Jr. Day that the fact many folks stayed home reduced the numbers of traffic accidents. Businesses that closed early and delayed reopening gave employees more time to commute to and from work safely. The same reduction in winter weather accidents was reported in surrounding counties.

Local 911 centers have asked the public to avoid using the 911 number to call and ask questions about weather, road conditions, places to stay warm and other issues that are not a life-threatening emergency. Dispatchers ask that the public use the centers' non-emergency numbers for those calls.

Questions about where to stay warm have been asked more often thanks to single-digit temperatures and dangerous wind chills. The Bluefield Union Mission has provided a place to warm up as well as get help in the form of fuel, blankets and winter clothing. The Salvation Army in Princeton has been using funds provided by the Mercer County Commission to give people overnight shelter at a local motel. The Bluewell United Methodist Church has offered shelter from the cold and a new warming location, as has the Matoaka Volunteer Fire Department. Tazewell County has a series of warming stations.

None of these warming stations could function without help from volunteers ready to give their time to strangers needing help. They must be ready to leave their homes at a moment's notice and keep a warming station going as soon as its doors open late at night and until early the next morning. Giving one's time is an act of generosity that's often seen in southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia.

This generosity is also demonstrated when the nonprofit agencies helping the disadvantaged need donations such as money, groceries for food pantries, coats, winter gear and other items. Local businesses, churches, institutions of higher learning and civic organizations also step up strongly when people need help. This generosity is obvious during Thanksgiving and Christmas, but the spirit continues after the latest round of joyous holidays becomes a memory.

Let's all keep being generous while the snow is falling and stay generous for the rest of the year.

Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com