Take cover: Hundreds find shelter at old middle school site
Nevada Appeal News Service
TRUCKEE – The Red Cross shelter set up at the former Sierra Mountain Middle School that housed 200 stranded travelers Monday night was completely empty by 9:15 Tuesday morning, but police said the army cots and blankets would remain in place through at least Tuesday night, in the event of another incident.
“It was dumping and blowing and people were just driving around town with no place to go,” said Truckee Police Sgt. Tim Hargrove.
Caltrans closed Interstate 80 at 5:30 p.m. and couldn’t reopen the eastbound roadway until 3 a.m., according to public information officer Mark Dinger. Westbound traffic resumed at 6 a.m.
Donner Pass Road was also a mess with cars parked in the road, plows absent because of the need on Interstate 80, and the double roundabout jammed because no one could get onto the freeway.
The Truckee Police Department activated its Incident Command around 7 p.m., alerting the Truckee Fire Protection District, Sacramento Sierra Chapter of the American Red Cross and the Tahoe Forest Church Medical Reserve Corps of the need for an overnight shelter.
Local Medical Reserve Corps volunteers arrived with armloads of blankets, cots, sleeping bags, a half dozen inflatable mattresses, and a handful of coffee pots from their own homes.
Because of the conditions, Red Cross volunteers didn’t reach Truckee to set up cots for sleeping until nearly 2 a.m.
“We did the best we could and I think that people really appreciated the effort,” said MRC volunteer Danielle Farnell. “Everyone had just been in their cars for so long – some were saying 10 hours since Reno – and they were just glad to get out. It was definitely better than the alternative.”
The shelter was a “lifesaver” for those who could reach it, though hundreds of other travelers were stuck on Interstate 80 overnight, according to Dinger.
“We were at the bus station (in Truckee), and we would have slept there, but the cops picked us up,” said Sacramento resident Curtis Cook, who was driving to his family’s cabin when his 1970 Chevelle broke down near Donner Lake. “We were about the last ones into the shelter, around 12:30 (a.m.).”
Most other over-nighters arrived on their own, Hargrove said, having been directed by illuminated road signs, police dispatchers, informed hotel clerks and AM1610.