A short time later, Debi’s new Christmas cell phone rang.
Continued from last week:
By Sherry Vogel
A short time later, Debi’s new Christmas cell phone rang. It was daughter Aimee who had been attempting to get ahold of them, asking how their trip was going? Debi promptly answered the call, urging Aimee to “stop talking” and “to listen.” She was concerned that they may lose reception at any second. She quickly described the situation and asked Aimee to notify the Sheriff and the highway patrol, to give them the approximate location of Bryon’s truck, which was 2.9 miles from their locale. She also asked Aimee to pray.
The authorities said their hands were tied. They were not able to attempt to find anyone stranded until the storm subsided, which they hoped would be the following morning. Aimee called a teacher friend she knew from the Macintosh area. The friend called two various ranchers, who owned tractors, who lived along that route. Both attempted to reach their tractors parked in their barnyards, but to no avail. They weren’t able to reach their tractors or even able to see two feet ahead of them.
Realizing now that perhaps she would have a cell connection with Summitt, whose cell was also serviced by Mid-Rivers, she texted, “How r u?” God answered her prayer and grandson Summitt texted back. “Cold.” Debi typed, “Aimee sends help.” They kept short phrases to save cell power and texted at short intervals throughout what would become a long cold night.
The Wimans were quite adequately prepared for this unforeseen event. The van had a winter survival box with extra coats, boots, hats and gloves. There were a few blankets, some water, beef jerky, jellybeans and a shovel.
The shovel was invaluable. Every thirty minutes, throughout the night, they would take turns shoveling the heavy wet snow away from their exhaust pipe to avoid being overcome with carbon monoxide poisoning.
Each time one of them would come in from shoveling, they would need to change into dry clothing. Luckily dry clothes were not an issue as they were supplied from a bag of dirty laundry, clothes they had used during the visit.
They ran the heater for 15 minutes, every half hour, to conserve gasoline.
Meanwhile back in the stranded truck, Bryon and Summitt were combating the cold in their own fashion. To begin with they were fairing well. Bryon’s pickup truck was equipped with a propane heater and he also had a number of chemical generated heat packs. They were able to use the small packs in their mittens, socks and shirt pockets. They also were carrying a small stash of snacks and water.
Everything seemed to be under control when the truck heater froze up. Bryon converted to using the propane heater, but when that heater ran out of fuel, the situation became more serious.
Remembering he was carrying a propane torch in the back of his pickup Bryon got out and brought it inside. He resorted to using it as a heat source firing it at intervals. As the night became bitterly cold, it became useful in other ways. At one point Summitt started to take off his tennis shoes because his feet were becoming numb. The torch was used to heat the soles of their shoes to keep their feet from freezing.
At 2 p.m., Debi received one final text from Summitt, “No heat,” then the cell phone went dead.
It was a long nine hours of uncertainty before the Wimans would be rescued that next morning.
Rick and Debi heard the sound of an approaching snowmobile sometime around 7 a.m. The manager of the Co-Op was coming over to check on the gas station when he found the Wimans. They were taken over to the city hall where members of the Hope Rising Church had already gone into action setting up a temporary shelter for a large number of motorists who had been stranded in the small town.
The sheriff, who was following a snowplow, was dispatched to go out and find Bryon and Summitt. When the snow plow operator approached what he thought was the Wiman’s white truck, all he could see on the edge of the road was a wrecked vehicle that looked as if it had rolled and all the windows were out. When he relayed the message to the sheriff, the sheriff’s heart stopped. Remembering the call for assistance the night before he exclaimed, “I wish they had told me it wrecked.” As he got out and scrambled up the steep snow bank, he expected the worst, because he knew no one could survive sub zero temps with the windows broken out of their vehicle. He was so relieved when he spotted the closed window of Bryon’s truck roll down.
The entire Wiman family was joyously reunited at the shelter a short time later.
What would Debi do any differently? She stated, “I will be buying a propane car heater to add to my winter survival kit.”
Now as Debi recalls that cold dark night stranded along Highway #12, she says, “Our Christmas was full of miracles.”