WALDEN, Col. – Dozens of stranded drivers were left with no place to stay in a small town on Sunday night.
Whiteout conditions and accidents forced roads to close near Walden, Colo., About 35 miles from US Highway 40.
Claire Heeb Carrasco and her husband were just two of these drivers. They were returning to Salt Lake City after visiting their family in Denver for Christmas. They had already changed their route as their usual path was also closed due to impassable roads.
“The mountain passes were really tough and some people slipped, got stuck,” said Heeb Carrasco. “It was really scary.”
When they arrived in Walden, Colorado, a town of about 600 people and only a few hotels, she quickly discovered that there was no obvious place with rooms available.
“We checked all the places – no vacancies anywhere,” she said. “And finally, at the last place, they said, ‘Oh hey, the community church is open.'”
Around the same time Heeb Carrasco and her husband learned they were stranded for the night, parishioner Ann Carlstrom also received a call.
“We got a call from the sheriff’s department around, oh, four in the afternoon,” Carlstrom told KSL-TV.
It’s a call she’s taken before, but not in a few years.
The sheriff’s office questioned whether the church would be open to drivers stranded overnight.
Calstrom rushed over to the church to open the doors. Some of these drivers beat her there.
“There were already people waiting,” she said.
And more has come – a lot more.
“I think there were about 80 people in total,” Calstrom said. “I don’t have an exact count, and about 15 dogs.”
These 80 people and their dogs would probably have spent the night in their cars.
Heeb Carrasco said she, her husband and their dogs found a room in the church and crouched down for the night.
“We were just super grateful that this little town was so ready and like, ready to welcome all of these people,” she said.
As for the community church, Carlstrom said they are happy to help.
“It was a really great experience for both parties, and the people were so cooperative and grateful. (We were) happy to do so. We will do it again if the need arises.