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Kremmling gives road refugees red carpet treatment

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News

Motorists stranded Sunday night because of closed mountain passes found a helpful oasis in Kremmling.

As many as 250 people, most of whom who traveled in a whiteout from Steamboat Springs but who were unable to continue on to Denver because Berthoud Pass and I-70 were closed, found shelter at the West Grand High School. Rabbit Ears Pass was also closed.

Red Cross cots and blankets awaited weary travelers starting at around 5:30 p.m., as well as entertainment to pass the time, like games and puzzles, library books and magazines, and even a movie playing in the auditorium.

West Grand Superintendent Jeff Perry helped expedite the effort.

He opened up classrooms so individual families could have more privacy and even “gave use of his cell phone freely,” said Erica Mays of Fraser, who hitchhiked with family to Kremmling after her car went off the road this side of Rabbit Ears Pass.

She spent the night at the shelter with her children.

The kitchen was open, with food, coffee and hot chocolate, and crayons and coloring books were available to kids.

“It was really sweet,” she said.

“For a bad situation, it worked out fairly well,” said Perry.

Those stranded were mostly from out of state, so it was “a neat opportunity to see so many people from so many different areas and get to know them a little better,” he said.

The Kremmling Mercantile pitched in with $100 worth of food for the temporary shelter. The Mercantile also offered free coffee and hot chocolate right at the store.

Assistant Manager Doug Richards guessed about 150 to 200 people stopped in and warmed up with a beverage. Even though people were frustrated because they couldn’t get to their destinations, “for the most part, everyone was in good spirits,” Richards said.

Meanwhile, since motels and hotels were filling up fast, the Cliffview Assisted Living Center in Kremmling also opened its doors to motorists.

Cliffview Manager Mary Pat Gale said the facility played host to 10 motorists.

“One couple was a newlywed couple from Long Beach, Calif.,” she said.

The facility’s staff members ” Kirsten Lynn, Marge Kennedy and JoAnn Lee ” rallied to provide blankets and temporary beds for visitors. They also cooked breakfast for them the next morning.

“The people were gracious and appreciative,” Gale said. “Several made donations thanking us for the hospitality.”

Kremmling Police Chief Scott Spade also credited the Grand County Office of Emergency Management as well as Fire Chief Tony Tucker for helping to coordinate the emergency shelter.

” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@grandcountynews.com.


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