Steele community members step up to provide shelter to stranded travelers

Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 1:46 PM CST
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STEELE, N.D. (KFYR) - Even before the interstate officially closed Tuesday evening, many travelers were forced to change their plans and began looking for a warm place to spend the night.

Many ended up in Steele, where the hotels were quickly filled. That’s when the community stepped up to help.

These four pictures tell the story of Heather Petersons’ Tuesday from start to finish.

“It’s been an adventure for sure,” said Heather.

She and her 11-year-old son, Parker, started the day with a view of a nice, sunny day in Rochester, Minn.

By Jamestown, that view changed to winter.

“It started getting really bad,” Heather recalled.

And 10 miles east of Steele, Heather said she could barely see the road.

“I don’t even know how we made it to Steele but by the time we made it to there, we were pretty lucky to get off the interstate and find someplace warm,” she said.

But there were no hotel rooms available in Steele. Instead, community volunteers set up cots in the Steele Community Center.

“It’s kind of like we’re camping inside,” Heather joked.

Volunteers brought in pizza, coffee and water.

“We had a lot of volunteers from the Steele area and county that were helping out,” said Kidder County Sheriff’s Deputy Nick Friez.

As the night went on, Heather and Parker watched the community center slowly fill with stranded travelers.

“I bet we had 40-50 people up there,” said Kidder County Sheriff Barry Vannatta.

Spending the night just 40 miles from their home in Lincoln isn’t what the Petersons had planned.

“I just wanted to be home,” Parker admitted.

“It is very hard. We were trying to make it home, but we had to do the safe thing,” said Heather.

And this time, the safe thing also created some memories that made this a trip Heather and Parker will never forget.

Heather and Parker make the trip to Rochester every three months. Parker has been battling a rare brain tumor for the past year. Parker just learned he’ll soon be granted his Make-A-Wish trip to Disney World. Although now, he’s considering asking for another trip to Steele.