Ranger district assists road commission in during storm

Cooperation shows preparedness, officials say

LAKE COUNTY — In August, Lake County saw two storms that left more than 200 knocked down and blocking roadways. While the Lake County Road Commission is accustomed to cleaning up after storms throughout every season, a storm that hit on Aug. 7 left the county agency with more to clean up than usual. However, in a day and age when budgets are being cut more often and combining resources is commonplace, another local agency came to the aid of the road commission. With 985 miles of certified roads in Lake County, the road commission was stretched to its limits after the Aug.7 storm downed approximately 150 trees across roadways — mainly in the north of the county. Realizing the scope of the work that needed to be done, the Baldwin/White Cloud Ranger District of the Huron-Manistee National Forest offered its services. “We had everybody we had chasing trees,” said Jay Syrewicze, road commission superintendent. “If they would not have helped, it would have added another day or two to clean up. They saved us a day of clean up. They basically helped the public.” While all 18 of the road commission’s crew were dispatched in the early morning hours of Aug. 7 with chainsaws and heavy equipment to remove the debris, the ranger district offered its assistance when employees came to work. Nine members of the district were split into three trucks and dispatched to several townships to help in the clean-up efforts, Syrewicze said. “We are thankful for the cooperation and we look forward to having a good working relationship (with the district),” Syrewicze said. “At this time we need to help each other. We are being cut — we are down eight people — and I am sure they’re having cuts. We are starting to have to share and help each other to get through our hard times.” Having agencies cooperate and join together logistically is the purpose of emergency management preparation, said Lake County Emergency Management Director Michael Applewhite. Each time agencies work together in a disaster, it makes the process run smoother the next time. “We were more than thankful for (the district’s) help,” Applewhite said. “They did an awesome job for us and I look forward to doing this again with them.” To the best of his knowledge, the Aug. 7 storm was the first time the district assisted the road commission with cleaning-up trees, Syrewicze said. However, the district and road commission have worked together in the past on larger, long-term projects, said Chris Frederick, the Baldwin/White Cloud Ranger District acting district ranger. With agencies working together more closely now, emergency plans have been established to utilize each of their expertise. “I think more and more what we are seeing, especially in this part of the world, is that we rely on each other in a lot of different ways,” Frederick said. Members from the Baldwin/White Cloud Ranger District that helped clear trees after the storm included Kevin Sherretz, Kory Borgman, Angela Harvieux, Desmond Lyon, Josh Stevens, Justin Garlock, Kenny Wawsczyk, Taylor VanDyke and Steve Sawyer. Members from the Cadillac/Manistee District also provided some assistance. Syrewicze said he is appreciative of the hard work his own crew put in, but also for the ranger district’s assistance. “It’s good to work together because if a big disaster hits, we have a little bit of familiarity to work more efficiently which would create a better working relationship,” Syrewicze said.