Firefighters give stranded motorists helping hand

Published on Monday, 3 March 2014 21:05 - Written by Kenneth Dean, kdean@tylerpaper.com

Stranded on a frozen stretch of Interstate 20 is not how Shelly Wabrek and her two sons saw themselves ending their fun-filled trip to New Orleans.

But the principal of the Episcopal School of Dallas said the hospitality she and others were receiving in Smith County brightening their spirits.

Ms. Wabrek spoke about the conditions on the road Monday while waiting out the storm’s aftermath at the Red Springs Fire Department firehouse on Farm-to-Market Road 14 Monday afternoon.

Ms. Wabrek said she left New Orleans knowing there could be a chance of frozen precipitation, but she did not have any idea she would be stranded.

“Between 11 last night and 5:30 this morning, we only moved about 100 yards,” she said. “I only had a quarter tank of gas, and at 5:30, I was panicking because we were running low on gas, so I called the highway patrol, and they sent the (Red Springs) firefighters to us, and they brought us here.”

Ms. Wabrek said the hospitality was incredible from the firefighters and the Red Springs Baptist Church, which sprung into action to assist those at the fire department.

About a dozen weary travelers found refuge at the department,  and many found solace in a warm blanket while stretched on the couches usually manned by firefighters waiting for a call. 

The firefighters, usually at the station, were busy out in the cold with dozens of other emergency responders assisting other motorists needing help. 

At the Shell Service Center at Interstate 20 and U.S. Highway 271, Brittany Johnson said she and her family were stranded. The family included her husband and three children, ages 1, 6 and 9.

“It hasn’t been the best of nights,” she said. “The ramps were frozen, so we we’ve been calling the Department of Transportation, but they just say this is indefinite, so I don’t know what we’re going to do.” 

Sighing, she said, “I just want to get home.”

Frank Donovan, of Lafayette, La., was traveling with his wife, grandson and the family dog to Fort Worth for a trade show. 

“It’s a good thing I pulled off like my wife told me because it’s better to be stuck here than out there,” he said. 

Donovan said he was not prepared for the weather and hoped to be on the road soon.

Truck drivers also were stuck and many stayed in the warmth of their truck cabs, but some surveyed the scene and added their own commentary.  

Johnny Clemons from Huntsville, Ala., a truck driver said he was parked until the roads cleared.

“Nope, I didn’t expect this, but then you can never tell about the weather,” he said.