GREAT FALLS— Despite an abnormal respite marking the start of this year’s snow season, Montana has felt the brunt of Old Man Winter’s wrath over the past few weeks. From decreased visibility to pitiful traction, the roadside impacts of winter weather are hard to ignore.
But Great Falls citizens have not allowed this added stress to drive them apart. Instead, police officers, business owners, and civilians are working in tandem to overcome it. In what some dub as the “good Samaritan effect,” the tough conditions brought on by winter weather are inciting an eagerness to help others.
And Great Falls citizens have proven especially benevolent.
Robbie Larson, an officer with the Great Falls Police Department (GFPD), told MTN News on Sunday that dispatch responded to “over 50 calls of stuck vehicles” the day prior, after nearly seven inches of snow blanketed the Electric City overnight.
“I know I probably did six to 10 myself, assisting people,” Larson said. Upon arrival to those calls, however, Larson found himself pleasantly surprised.
“When I arrived on scene […] multiple people would stop and say, ‘Hey, I have chains […] Can we help?’” said Larson. “50 to 75 percent of the time they were already unstuck, because other people in the area were coming to help.”
Larson added, “That is something I appreciate, and I’m sure a lot of the other guys on the force do, too.”
Still, Larson encourages specific types of vehicles, particularly “small passenger cars with two-wheel drive,” to steer clear of side streets when snow hits hard, noting how “a lot of those people who were stuck [Saturday] were on side streets.”
“With those cars, it’s probably best to either stay home or stick to main streets,” Larson said. “Obviously, we have to take other calls besides stuck motorists.”
And for those individuals who could not reach GFPD with their vehicular troubles Saturday morning, a local car dealership also exemplified the “good Samaritan effect.” Lithia Chrysler Jeep Dodge of Great Falls sent out a team of sales consultants and managers, self-identified as the “Snow Patrol,” to assist individuals with vehicle troubles. Video of employees lending a helping hand took social media by storm— literally.
“It was free service,” said General Manager Brian Belderrain. “We kept really busy, but we were able to help a lot of awesome people. I’m blessed to have such generous and kind employees, [and] I’m really proud of them.”
One of those employees, Salesman Austin Luckenbill, was just happy to have brought some warmth to those around him.
“I saw like six people caught on 10th [Avenue South] and stuck at intersections and whatnot, and it just kind of became an all-day thing,” Luckenbill said. “We had a blast.”
“It felt really good,” he continued. “It fills you up. We’re like a big family here in Great Falls, and we try to be as close to the community as possible.”
Luckenbill hopes the dealership will continue the tradition, saying, “I had fun— I didn’t want to come back to try and sell cars.”
Lithia, however, was one of many business in the Electric City pitching in. Among others, Ashley’s All in One Cleaning, a local cleaning service, notified the community via social media that it would be offering roadside assistance. “We have no problem helping you out for free,” the Facebook post said.
In an exchange with MTN News, Great Falls resident Jessica Michelle wrote that not only did Ashley’s help “22 people including [her],” on Saturday, but they also came in “less than 10 minutes!”
While the data claiming that winter weather leads to higher IQs and weight loss continues to fuel scientific debate, the tangible benefits of the “good Samaritan effect” around Great Falls are certain. The personal warmth incited by freezing temperatures is part of what makes Great Falls such a unique place in which to live.
“That is why I work in this community,” said GFPD Officer Robbie Larson.
Reporting by Zachary Schermele for MTN News