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Weather halts travel in area

By Staff | Feb 1, 2010

A mortician, CEO of a motel chain, family with a dog and a young woman with a cat found their way to the Senior Center in Blue Earth on Monday night.

They were among those left stranded in the blizzard.

When Interstate 90 and all state highways were closed to travel late afternoon that day, many motorists began searching for a place to spend the night and wait out the storm.

“We had people all over the place on cots. They were even between the aisles of books in the library,” says Middy Thomas, director of the Senior Center.

Thomas says 31 cots, in all, were used.

It got so crowded at the center, she says, a door connecting it to the Blue Earth Community Library had to be opened to make more room.

The first “guest,” says Thomas, arrived around 2:30 p.m. and the last found the center around 2 a.m., after getting her truck stuck on Highway 16.

“She had her cat with and she used kitty litter under the tires to try and get out,” Thomas says.

Once the woman and cat arrived, the feline had to be placed in a closet — just in case someone was allergic to it.

The family and their dog also had to be placed in a special area in the library.

Thomas says quilts and Red Cross comfort kits — containing toothpaste and other personal grooming items — were handed out.

“Most of the people were heading back to eastern South Dakota. We did have some people from Fairmont,” says Thomas.

To provide some form of entertainment, head librarian Eva Gaydon turned on the com-puters.

For the most part, says Thomas, people just sat around talking and getting to know each other.

Things were hopping at area motels, too.

Sharon Hoffman of the AmericInn along the interstate says it didn’t take long to fill the 38 rooms.

“We were plumb full. A lady almost had to sleep on the couch, but we had a cancellation and were able to give her a room” she says.

Larry Wilson of Burnsville was smart and called ahead to reserve a room.

Wilson works for the state’s Weights and Measures Office, checking scales at hog-buying stations.

He had just left Mankato and was traveling south on Highway 169 when he ran into some bad weather.

“Everything was fine, until I got about 10 miles south of Mankato. The wind was blowing and you couldn’t see,” he says. “I don’t know how it got so bad, so quick.”

Once there weren’t any motel rooms available, people were directed to the new Law Enforcement Center.

Sheriff Mike Gormley says no one took him up on his offer to spend the night at the facility. He says many were sent or taken to the Senior Center.

Marion Bell, manager of the Super 8 Motel, says all 42 rooms were filled.

There also were no rooms to be had at the Elms Motel in Winne-bago.

By Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. most of the over-nighters at Americ-Inn were checking out and enjoying the continental breakfast.

Hoffman, who started her regular shift at 6:30 a.m. Monday, had managed to get about three hours of sleep.

Thomas got less, about an hour. She did take a couple of breaks to go home and care for her dog.

Thomas says many local residents pitched in.

Some brought in snacks, while others opened their homes for a night’s stay.

A mother and her son were returning home after he received chemotherapy treatment.

Thomas didn’t think spending a night at the Senior Center would be a good idea. Someone let them stay at their house.

“It was quite an experience,” she says. “The people were very appreciative of what we did. We wanted to make them comfortable, because they had been through a lot.”