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Answering a call for help ‘Snowgeddon’ brings unique cries for help to Colleton

When emergency calls come into Colleton County’s 911-emergency dispatch center, a person in crisis needs the men and women who are answering that call to know how to act quickly. But, when a natural disaster occurs in a town that sits in the middle of one of the busiest interstates in the nation, the 911-calls for help require a whole different level of expertise.

Last week, winter storm Grayson hit the Lowcountry with a fury. The storm, which is being commonly called snowgeddon on social media outlets, dumped 2-7 inches of snow and ice on coastal and inland areas of the Lowcountry.

Colleton’s freezing temps kept the ice and snow on the ground longer, creating miles of a black ice nightmare on Interstate 95. The storm started on Tuesday and lasted through Sunday, prompting hundreds of additional calls for help to pour into Colleton County’s emergency dispatch center. From stranded and cold motorists to the county’s more routine emergency calls, the county’s dispatchers had an additional level of stress on their hands.

One of the women working in the county’s dispatch center last week is seasoned law enforcement officer and dispatcher Angela Stallings. Stallings, 40, of Green Pond, is currently a lieutenant with the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office, but her local law enforcement career carefully spans from her working with the Walterboro Police Department to on the team with the Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor’s Office.

Throughout her career, she has always maintained her dispatcher certifications. She first began as a dispatcher in 1998, and then became a certified officer in 1999.

Stallings, who is also a mother of two children, says that last week’s snow storm prompted a higher-than-normal number of vehicle accidents on the county’s roadways. With the road conditions so treacherous, her concerns also had to be for the county’s law enforcement and first responders who were trying to assist those citizens in need, she said. In dealing with traffic calls, she said the ability to move quick and smart is key. “With so many calls coming in at one time, you have to be quick, move through the calls faster while getting the important information so you can move to the next call that is coming in,” she said. “You have to be fast, but at the same time very thorough.”

This is the fourth consecutive year that Stallings has had to use additional skills while working in the county’s call center. She worked during the historic flood that occurred in October of 2015; Hurricane Matthew in 2016; and was on-call when Hurricane Irma hit Colleton County in 2017.

She says any natural disaster brings a unique element of problems to the county.

In last week’s snow storm, Stallings says stranded and hurt motorists on I-95 created a unique situation. “The 18-wheelers and vehicles overturning on the interstate, back to back, and trying to keep our responding units safe while they responded to these accidents made for scary moments,” she said.

Colleton County Sheriff R. Andy Strickland says that all of his employees at the sheriff’s office “went the extra mile” in keeping residents and tourists safe during the snow storm.

“Everyone did an outstanding job and I am proud of each and every one of them,” he said.

Heather Walters (1700 Posts)