(St. Joseph,MO) Monday a winter storm blew through northwest Missouri causing whiteout conditions and closing major roads and highways.
"With I-35 there were some wrecks north of town, that both northbound lanes and southbound lanes were blocked. Then there were state troopers, and officers, and deputies from the area of Cameron, who were coming across people that were stuck and couldn't get out," Cameron Police Chief Rick Bashor said.
The harsh conditions left many drivers stranded, but thanks to emergency relief efforts from the American Red Cross and area first responders, 40 people were provided with emergency shelter Monday night.
Ralph Dishong, a Disaster Program Specialist for the American Red Cross, said the shelters were set up in cities close to major highways that had been shut down for the evening.
"We ended up with a total of 5 [shelters in] Cameron, Missouri, St. Joseph, Rockport, Mound City and Savannah. We open them up in the afternoon, kind of as warming centers, not necessarily for overnight,because we weren't sure if people thought maybe they were going to be able to get back on the road," Dishong said.
As road conditions got worse, the warming centers quickly became emergency shelter for people needing a place to stay for the night.
"We had people that were stuck off the highway. Their cars were in ditches and the highway patrol and law enforcement got them back to the shelters and they ended up staying overnight at several of those shelters,"Dishong said.
Bashor said the Cameron shelter had five people stay overnight at the Cameron United Methodist Church.
“All of our hotels were full, so at that time the Red Cross gave us a call and wanted to know if we could put the shelter together,” Bashor said.
First responders from the Cameron Police Department, Fire Department, EMS,Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), the Clinton County Sheriff’s Department, and Missouri State Highway Patrol all helped bring people to the local shelter.
According to Dishong, Rockport had 13 people stay in the emergency shelter; Mound City had five people stay in the shelter and Savannah had 15 people stay in the shelter. Despite being open for several hours as a warming center, Dishong said no one stayed in the St. Joseph emergency shelter.
“We were here a good five or six hours yesterday into the evening and nobody showed up. I don’t know if they went to hotels or managed to go north or south. We just didn’t get anybody taking our offer here,”Dishong said.
Bashor said after many officers worked overnight assisting with the shelter, first responders then helped drivers get back on the roads safely on Tuesday.
"Some of them (vehicles) will need wreckers to get them out of ditches, so we are helping them line those things up," Bashor said.
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