Volunteers rescue those stuck during storm

March 17, 2019

SCOTTSBLUFF — The blizzard that tore across the high plains mid-week left some motorists stuck in drifts without a prayer.

A group of volunteers with the rigs and the know-how braved through the storm this week to help rescue those who were stuck and in need of help.

A Facebook group, Nebraska Panhandle Vehicle Recovery, has been around since February 2017, but was slow to grow.

That changed on Wednesday, Michael Frady, the group’s admin, said during a telephone interview Saturday.

“Brian Sherrod (of NBC Nebraska in Scottsbluff) interviewed me on Wednesday, and that exploded from there,” Frady said. “We got over 200 members overnight.”

As of press time, the group currently has 668 members.

Frady said he’d hoped that members of his other group, the 200-member strong Band of Misfits Off-Road Club, would be able to step up. It’s not so much of an idle hobby, as the training and practice pays off when it comes to real-world situations.

“When we go off-roading, we do it for fun and we do it to test our capabilities,” he said. “We’re always getting stuck so it’s just something that we’re used to doing. That’s why we never go out alone.”

Frady said that two other members from that club are also in the Panhandle Vehicle Recovery Group and have experience recovering vehicles, but both of their vehicles were out of service before the storm.

“They would have helped if they could have,” he said.

So at the start of Wednesday, it was just Frady and his vehicle. Thankfully, during the storm another 12 individuals raised their hands.

“We have people from Mitchell all the way over to Alliance,” he said. “We don’t have many of them, maybe one or two in each area, but we’re growing quickly.”

Frady said he personally recovered about 30 vehicles during the storm.

The hairiest of those recoveries was on Highland Road, east of the airport, on Wednesday night.

“We barely made it out there driving down the middle of the road, it was so deep,” he said. “Once we got there, there were two other vehicles in the ditch where the guy was stranded, so luckily no one else was out there freezing.”

They had the motorist turned around and started towing the driver back to Scottsbluff when they became high-centered on a snowbank.

“Just from the time that it took us to hook him up and turn around, the snowbanks we had came from became larger, and we got stranded ourselves,” Frady said.

Luckily, Frady’s past experience volunteering with the Gering Volunteer Fire Department had paid off.

“One of (GVFD’s) members was the one that had sent us out to check on the driver,” he said. “I called her back and they sent out Scottsbluff Rural Fire with a 5-ton vehicle to pull us out.”

“That was an exciting evening. We were out there until about 10 p.m.”

The calls for help have died down significantly, and Frady will be back to his day job at Western Nebraska Regional Airport.

A native of Houston, he moved to Nebraska two years ago for a job with the Federal Aviation Administration. Wednesday was the first bad blizzard since he came to the Panhandle.

“I’ve only seen things like this on television,” he said.

Hopefully, the inclement weather is done for the spring, but for those interested in joining the group for future reference, search on Facebook for “Nebraska Panhandle Vehicle Recovery.