Lifestyle & Human Interest

Snowmobilers Drive 50 Miles Responding to 911 Calls from Stranded Travelers in Winter Storm


There’s cold — and then there’s cold. Some part of the United States only get the smallest breath of chill.

Others find themselves a little chilly, but those cold snaps are relatively short-lived. But the American Midwest can serve as a stage for a full-on frigid winter.

A blizzard has swept through Minnesota and Iowa, leaving the states swaddled in an incredibly thick blanket of snow. In fact, the situation has gotten so dire that it has led to some downright dramatic rescues.

According to KWWL, the Iowa Department of Transportation and the Iowa State Patrol closed a section of I-35 on Feb. 24. “The decision to close an interstate roadway means a serious safety condition exists and rescue crews may be in the area,” the agency said in a statement.

“Persons should never attempt to enter a closed roadway or go around barricades or gates. In addition, travel conditions on roadways near the interstate are dangerous and many are listed as travel not advised.”

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Unfortunately, some people were already trapped on the highway, and rescue crews had to get creative in order to help stranded motorists. Tyler Bachtle, 25, from Northwood, Iowa, was one of the people who revved up his snowmobile and joined authorities in their rescue efforts.

“I caught wind that the Worth County Sheriff was looking for people to go out on snowmobile, and I called Deputy Kevin Knudson and asked if they had enough help,” he told the Globe Gazette. “He asked me to meet at the Sheriffs Office to put together a plan with the group and head out.”

Brian Lund, Russ Meyer and Kenny Stambaugh joined Bachtle, and father and son group Rusty and Cody Wahl struck out in another direction. The sheriff’s office provided them with a list of stranded vehicles as well as the names of people who’d made 911 calls.

Bachtle’s group carried backpacks of extra winter gear for the stranded travelers. “We figured people had a winter coat and maybe gloves but likely not snow pants or a helmet required for snowmobile ride in that wind,” Bachtle said. “Frostbite wouldn’t take very long if you’re not dressed properly, and we wouldn’t want to make their situation worse.”

“We put on a little over 50 miles,” Bachtle said. “This storm was like nothing I’ve ever seen. Drifts six feet tall across parts of the interstate, and visibility so poor at times we could only drive 20 mph.”

Lund, a reserve captain at Worth County Sheriff’s Office, was similarly shocked by the conditions.

“You couldn’t hardly see where you were going on the snowmobile,” he explained. “It’s scary because you have no idea what you’re going to run into.”

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Their efforts paid off, though. In their four or five hours out in the blizzard, they checked at least 25 abandoned cars and ended up rescuing a man and two women who’d gotten trapped inside their vehicles.

“These people had been there since 8 p.m. Saturday night and were either out of gas or very close to it and excited to see us,” Bachtle said. Some of the travelers had been stranded in their cars for nearly 20 hours.

The young men transferred the travelers to the nearby Diamond Jo Casino, where plenty of other travelers had taken refuge from the storm. Rindy Johnson, whose grandparents had also been forced to stay at the Casino as the weather worsened, posted a picture on Facebook of the rescuers.

Johnson wrote, “My Grandma said it has been complete chaos with cars in the ditch everywhere, sold out rooms, and 60 plus stranded travelers setting up camp in the lobby of the hotel. Today, there were four men on snowmobiles going out and rescuing people stranded in their vehicles and bringing them to the hotel.

“It warmed my Grandma’s heart so much, and she is hoping these men can get a little recognition. If you know these guys, give them some love and big thanks.”

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A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine.
A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine. Most days find him crafting copy for corporate and small-business clients, but he also occasionally indulges in creative writing. His short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines. Loren currently lives in south Florida with his wife and three children.
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