Stranded Motorists Seek Shelter at Albert Lea Salvation Army

Posted at: 01/27/2014 6:48 PM
By: Dan Conradt

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- For all of them, it was somewhere between where they'd come from and where they were going. But for 72 people, the Albert Lea National Guard Armory turned into a sanctuary.

“We were on our way back from Minneapolis, and we had nothing but white out conditions," Zahir Bachelani told us.

Al Wohlrabe told a similar story: "Drove down 35 through the terrible stuff."

And they suffered fates: “We kind of just ran into zero visibility and missed a turn and ended up in a snowdrift," Zahir Bachelani explained.

And from Al Wohlrabe, “We ended up on a side road stuck in a snow bank right in the middle of the road."

Zahir Bachelani was hoping to get back home to Ankeny, Iowa.

"All the hotels were full, so they started sending people this way to spend the night because they closed off all the highways and interstates," he and Al Wohlrabe both ended up at an emergency shelter at the National Guard Armory in Albert Lea.

“The Salvation Army had cots for us and they had food and snacks so we could spend the night and be comfortable," Bachelani explained.

“72 spent the night or a few hours of just mental relaxation," the Army’s Captain Jim Brickson explained.

Al Wohlrabe had been in the Twin Cities, picking up his daughter who had just flown in after a study program in London. They were headed home to Fairmont when the weather intervened, and they buried their car in a snow drift on a road near Alden.

"When I got here there were probably only about 20 people or so, but through the night more people sifted in pretty much all night long, the way it seemed."

“Our last family I think came in at four o'clock this morning,” the Salvation Army’s Captain Jim Brickson explained.

But by mid-day, life had returned to near-normal for the travelers who'd found sanctuary in Albert Lea.

"Some people were real upset when they got here,” Captain Jim Brickson told us. “But they left a lot more relaxed, and hopefully a little bit more blessed."