Yadkin weathers historic winter storm

By Kitsey E. Burns kburns@civitasmedia.com

February 20, 2014

Snow began falling in Yadkin County around 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday and continued steadily through most of Thursday in one of the largest winter storms the area has seen in a decade. Despite the heavy snowfall that coated roads, trees and power lines, accidents due to the storm were few, said Emergency Services Director Keith Vestal.

The only major incident to affect the county was a propane leak at Suburban Propane, located at 740 N. State St. in Yadkinville around noon on Thursday. More than 200 residents were evacuated, but there were no injures reported. The leak was caused by the collapse of a snow-covered shelter over the bulk propane storage tank at Suburban Propane, Vestal said. Though the heavy snowfall caused problems for emergency officials trying to access the site, once they were able to shut off the propane valve, the gas dissipated quickly and residents were allowed to return to their homes.

Just ahead of the storm on Wednesday, county officials signed a proclamation declaring a state of emergency. According to Vestal, this process gave emergency personnel “a little more operating power.”

At Monday’s county commissioners meeting, there was high praise for Vestal, his staff and other county employees who made their best efforts to return to work quickly following the storm.

“I’d like to thank Keith and his staff for the many hours they put in over the snow week we had,” said Commissioner Frank Zachary. “I’m sure they helped out a lot of folks that were in peril. It was a bad time for Yadkin County. I’d also like to thank all the county employees because when they could get back to work, best I could tell, they were all at work. It was not the best of circumstances, but they got there.”

Commissioner Kevin Austin, chairman, also commended county employees and Vestal for the way things were handled during the storm.

Austin thanked county employees for their dedication and said thank you “especially to Keith and [Fire Marshal] Eddie [Weatherman] for working on preparedness and being out ahead of this thing and having the [state of emergency] proclamation already drafted so we could just go right on with what needed to happen.”

He also congratulated Vestal and his staff for the efficient way the gas leak at Suburban Propane was handled, calling it “very impressive.”

Throughout the course of the storm, the Yadkin County Emergency Operations Center was in full operation mode. With help from the state and the Red Cross, an emergency shelter was established at Jonesville Elementary School. Two military Humvees from the National Guard were also brought in to assist emergency officials in gaining access to patients on snow-covered roadways.

Vestal said that emergency personnel responded to 20 vehicle accidents, most of which were fender benders or cars that slid of the road. A few patients were transported to the hospital, but there were no major injuries reported.

“We got very lucky with this,” Vestal said. “And we want to thank the citizens for heeding the warnings and staying in place. It made our jobs a lot easier without so many people on the roads.”

Kitsey E. Burns may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.