TRAVELERS FINDING SHELTER IN STORMS
shelter in storms
La Grande had some unexpected guests over the weekend in the form of motorists who were stranded when a snowstorm closed Interstate 84 Sunday evening.
Fortunately, our local American Red Cross chapter is geared up to make the stay of these travelers as pleasant as possible.
The first priority is to fill local motels. But when that happens, Red Cross volunteers are called on to set up a shelter.
On Sunday, the Red Cross's newly acquired storage trailer was pulled to the impromptu shelter site at the Union County Senior Center. The trailer is equipped with 60 cots, 120 blankets and 120 comfort kits that include toothpaste, combs and other personal items. The Red Cross, which had access to additional cots in storage, accommodated more than 120 stranded travelers that night.
On Monday evening about 12 travelers were sent to a shelter at the Salvation Army Youth Center on Y Avenue. The motorists either had car problems or were unable to find tire chains for their vehicles. They were supplied blankets and cots by the Red Cross and meals by the Salvation Army.
That was the third time since November that the Red Cross has set up a shelter. The interstate was shut down when a storm blew through and roads turned treacherous on Nov. 25. The Red Cross, which has several shelter sites from which to choose, turned to the Nazarene Church for a place to house 38 people that evening.
Red Cross volunteers do not set up shelters on their own initiative. They wait for direction from the county emergency services office, local law enforcement and the Oregon Department of Transportation before proceeding. Police officers and motels advise motorists where to find the shelter. Volunteers fan out in the community to find stranded motorists in parking lots or other places where they are sitting and waiting.
The people waylaid in La Grande earlier this week would have preferred to continue on their way to their destinations. But, since the roads were closed, they were happy to have a warm place to spend the night. Some travelers returned the favor by helping set up cots or serving coffee and doughnuts to others arriving.
For many people, the shelter may be the only glimpse they will get of La Grande. As a result of experiencing the warm hospitality of the Red Cross and other volunteers, some may want to return some day under better weather conditions to get to know our beautiful part of the state a little better.