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No emergency shelters available for stranded motorists

Staff writer

Scores of stranded motorists during Monday night and Tuesday morning’s storm ended up needing a place to stay.

Nowhere in the county did an emergency shelter open.

“Usually, emergency shelters are opened for temperatures,” emergency manager Marcy Hostetler said.

Hostetler praised county residents who opened their homes to provide shelter to those who were stranded in the weather.

“Right now, we have stranded motorists sheltering at neighbors’ houses,” she said. “There was one an officer took to a hotel.”

Some had others with them, and some people had nearby places they were willing to go.

“We do not force somebody to pick a location,” she said. “In Marion County we have a lot of very good, kind-hearted people who opened up their homes and said, ‘hey, come stay with me.’ That’s the essence of small towns. That’s why we love Marion County because that’s what we do.”

Dispatchers got 30 calls about vehicles stuck or in a ditch, Hostetler said.

“This is 30 calls, not necessarily 30 vehicles,” she said. “There were times when law enforcement arrived on scene and more than one vehicle was there.”

Hostetler said some drivers waited for tow trucks and, once they arrived, continued on their route. Some went to a local hotel. Some were picked up by good Samaritans and stayed with them until their vehicle was towed. Some already had help on the way. Some asked law enforcement officers or passersby to take them to specific locations in town.

Undersheriff Larry Starkey was called to the intersection of Alamo Rd. and US-56. A couple from Baltimore headed toward McPherson had turned south onto Alamo Rd. and got about a quarter of a mile before getting stuck.

A tow truck missed seeing them. The couple called again later, and Starkey found them. After the tow truck pulled them back onto the highway, Starkey led them to Hillsboro, where they spent the rest of the night in a parking lot at Casey’s.

Starkey, who already had worked all day, went on duty around 11 p.m. because Josh Meliza was the only deputy on duty and “was pretty busy.” Starkey was out until after 4 a.m.

He noticed electricity was on and off a lot.

Utility workers had a busy night as well.

“Most of our crews got called out about 6:30 p.m. Monday,” Marion assistant city clerk Becky Makovec said. “I believe we had three out all last night.”

When a fourth came to work Tuesday morning, one who had been on duty all night was sent home to get some sleep so he could be called out Tuesday night if need be, she said.

City residents faced many interruptions with electricity, she said.

Around noon Tuesday, so many people in the south portion of town had electrical issues, the city’s south switch was turned off and back on to restore service to them.

“As of Tuesday afternoon, everybody was back on and everyone was restored,” Makovec said.

City street crews took to trucks and started clearing streets about 5 a.m.

“We had several incidents with the electric last night,” Hillsboro city administrator Matt Stiles said Tuesday. “Our guys were out pretty much all night.”

Tree branches weighted with snow dropped onto power lines and caught fire, Stiles said. Transformers also blew. The problems weren’t limited to a specific area of town.

“Whenever you get that much snow that fast, things happen,” Stiles said.

Stiles said city crew members are prepared and ready for this weekend’s forecast of deeply cold weather.

Evergy spokeswoman Lindsey Temaat said 100,000 customers in the utility’s eastern half of Kansas and western Missouri service area lost power.

“We have restored power to over 60,000,” Temaat said.

As of 1 p.m. Tuesday, 35,000 customers across Evergy’s service area remained without power.

Evergy’s work to restore power to its customers was hampered by high winds — in excess of 50 mph in some areas — and snow-packed and slick roads. Poor visibility also slowed linemen’s work.

Schools and many businesses and offices were closed Tuesday. Hillsboro city offices were closed, but employees worked from their homes.

Stiles said he went to city hall at 8 a.m. and opened the doors, but employees were having too much trouble getting to work, so about 10 a.m. he decided to close the office.

The courthouse also was closed.

Last modified Jan. 10, 2024

 

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