Nebraska teens drive snowmobile 12 miles to deliver penicillin to sick girl
LINCOLN, Neb. (Nebraska Examiner) — With snow drifts blocking local highways, residents of the Sandhills village of Cody were forced to use a snowmobile Friday to deliver penicillin to a sick child stuck at a local ranch.
After John Witt, the husband of a local doctor, was able to get the medicine to the ranching community west of Valentine, local brothers Trapper and Chase Schied, 15 and 12, drove their snowmobile 12 miles north to deliver the penicillin.
Zoey Johnson, 6, had been suffering from scarlet fever for the past three days but was snowed in at the family ranch, her grandfather, George Johnson said. Schied, he said, battled wind chills as low as 30 below zero to reach the ranch.
“It’s incredible,” the elder Johnson said. “It was critical that she got antibiotics before it started spreading to her organs.”
Cherry County, and the northern portion of Nebraska’s Panhandle, were hit hard by a blizzard that began on Dec. 13, with snowfall of up to 24 inches. This week, high winds drifted highways back shut, and bitterly cold temperatures hit the area.
The Nebraska Department of Transportation, facing a shortage of snowplow drivers across the state, deployed snowblowers from central Nebraska to battle the initial storm. But those extra plows were gone by this week, leaving local crews to deal with wind gusts topped 40 mph and drifts again blocking roads.
At 4 p.m. Friday, NDOT’s highway map showed several highways closed in the Valentine area and in the Pine Ridge region.
“It’s not a good situation for us,” said Dennis Connot, an NDOT maintenance supervisor out of Valentine, as he drove a plow Friday afternoon to a stranded motorist on Nebraska Highway 97 southwest of town.
Connot said that one snowdrift, 8-10 feet tall, that had blocked the highway had been dug out twice in the past two days but had redrifted across the road again Friday.
He said the high winds that swept across Nebraska this week made conditions worse than when the initial snows came. To complicate matters further, a couple of Connot’s snowplow drivers were sick on Friday.
“We found someone yesterday morning who was pretty cold out on Highway 12 who was stranded in a semi hauling hay,” he said. “He shouldn’t have been out.”
The Nebraska State Patrol reported Friday that its troopers had responded to more than 500 weather-related incidents during the windstorm and blistering cold temperatures on Wednesday and Thursday.
On Thursday evening, two stranded motorists were rescued on a county road near the South Dakota border in rural Dawes County.
After attempts failed to reach them using track vehicles and plows, members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe Search and Rescue employed snowmobiles to rescue them, the State Patrol reported.
“I don’t ever remember it being this bad,” said Lisa Bellin, who works at the Valentine Livestock Auction.
Bellin said her husband, who works as a plow driver, was stuck in a snowdrift in his rig on Highway 97 on Thursday as he tried to reach a stranded motorist. She said she’d also heard about the penicillin run in Cody.
“This is something you would hear about in 1930s, not in 2022,” Bellin said.
The livestock market canceled sales the past two weeks due to the deep snow followed by this week’s high winds and bitter cold. Bellin said it’s hard telling whether ranchers will lose cattle because, in many cases, they can’t get to them due to the deep snow and blinding winds.
“You have to find them first,” she said. “And you’ve got to be able to see them to get to them.”
The state patrol advises motorists who becomes stranded to stay in their vehicle and call for help. The Nebraska State Patrol Highway Helpline is available 24 hours per day by calling *55.