EMERGENCY services are snowed under with praise this week for their heroic work during the big freeze.
It was all shoulders to the wheel from Wednesday through to Sunday, as the entire county lay blanketed in thick snow, with drifts of up to eight feet in many parts.
A massive co-ordinated effort swung into action to relieve the worst-hit areas, clear roads, rescue stranded motorists and residents, transport patients to hospitals and medical centres, ferry food and heating supplies to elderly householders and keep essential services operating. An exceptional community spirit came to the fore, as ordinary people came out to help neighbours in their hour of need.
The extraordinary countywide effort was led by Laois County Council’s Severe Weather Crisis Management Team, with multiple daily meetings involving gardaí, the HSE, Laois Fire and Rescue Service, county council road crews, Laois Civil Defence and other agencies. The crisis brought out the best in both public and private operators with the defence forces, contractors and volunteers coming out around the clock to help ambulance crews, doctors, nurses and other medical staff.
In a statement yesterday (Monday), Laois County Council acknowledged the massive effort shown by so many during the crisis. A spokesperson said: “We wish to acknowledge the support of contractors, the agricultural sector, building contractors and private individuals with access to plant and machinery who supported us in our efforts to unblock as many local and county roads as possible and support the emergency services in reaching locations. We also wish to acknowledge the support of 42 personnel from the defence forces, who greatly assisted the efforts.”
While most road networks were back to normal yesterday, some minor local roads remained blocked due to large snow accumulations. County council crews are still working to clear blocked routes, which will reopen as soon as possible. With fears of flooding during the thaw, the council is also monitoring river levels on an ongoing basis.
Community spirit was very much in action during the height of the blizzard early on Friday morning, when an 11-year-old boy became seriously ill in Clough and had to be rushed to hospital. When an ambulance was unable to make it past Grantstown, a local man transported the first responders’ team in a 4×4 jeep as far as a crossroads outside Clough village, where it was blocked by snow drifts. A local farmer pulled the vehicle with his tractor to the boy’s home, where he received medical treatment before he was brought to Portlaoise hospital.