Dave Paslay: "I felt like a mountain man at heart – on my own, braving the elements."
A rare late-season blizzard crippled western Kansas on Sunday, April 30, 2017. The storm caused complete power outages at several of our central offices. Communications Technicians Matthew Chapman, Jeffery Jones and Dave Paslay braved the grueling weather conditions on their day off to recover service for our customers.
Plowing through deep snow to get the job done
"I woke up that morning, the snow was piling high and coming down real fast," Dave said. "It was already 24 inches in my doorway. When I got on the highway, it was a blowing, full-scale blizzard. I drove 29 miles to the Oberlin central office and put 10 gallons of diesel in the generator to get it started."
Dave kept in contact with Matthew and Jeffrey during the storm. Matthew said he needed fuel.
"I drove to Atwood to get fuel," Dave said. "The power poles were broken like toothpicks. There were cars in ditches with nobody in them. I could hardly see. The snow was so heavy and blinding me."
The electricity was out in Atwood when Dave arrived. He went to the central office and manually put it on a generator. He then got word that another nearby town, St. Francis, had a critical battery alarm and would soon lose service.
"I had topped off the St. Francis generator with diesel before the storm," Dave said. "The highway was closed, but I saw headlights. I decided to go around the barricade to get there. At one point the snow was so heavy, I barely was able to plow through it."
It took Dave 90 minutes to go 30 miles. As he got closer to St. Francis, the storm let up a bit. He was able to save our service in St. Francis around midnight and then saved 2 more towns, McDonald and Bird City, before returning home in the wee hours of the morning.
Road warriors to the rescue
Meanwhile, Jeffrey attempted to get to the Scott City central office. He couldn’t get a ride, so he set off on foot, trudging through the heavy snow, along tire tracks, to get to the central office and switch it to the generator's power.
For his part, Matthew ventured out at 6 a.m. to restore power in Oakley, 29 miles away. The roads were impassable and he ended up stranded on a 2-lane highway for a couple of hours. "The snow was so deep and it was a complete white out," Matthew said. "I was in the middle of farmland."
When a plow came through at 7:15 p.m., Matthew took advantage of the opportunity and followed it into town. When he arrived at our central office, it was dark and completely without power. He was able to restore power and our service to the area around 11:45 p.m. – almost 18 hours after the power went out.
You heard it from a hero
In the face of horrific blizzard conditions, these colleagues were fearless and confident – mostly.
"There were a couple of times I was a bit shook up," Dave said. "I didn't want to get stranded and leave my company vehicle behind. I felt I was prepared with heavy clothing if I needed to, though. I felt like a mountain man at heart. On my own braving the elements and going about my business. It was actually kind of fun.”