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63 Caught in Minnesota Blizzard 'Stay Over' : Family Plays Host to Stranded Motorists

January 26, 1988|From Times Wire Services

ST. JAMES, Minn. — Loretta Hoffman was not expecting company with a blizzard howling around her farm, but she and her family spotted a line of stranded motorists on a highway near their home and wound up with a house full of 63 overnight guests.

"We are still having a good time," she said Monday morning. "You can do a lot when you have to. We are just thankful we were able to help. It was pretty bad out there."

Their new friends included a missionary from Japan and a couple from England. Others were from South Dakota and Iowa.

'Like a Jigsaw on Floor'

"It's been quite fun. It's a lovely group of people," said Nickie Jones, 23, of London. "It was like a jigsaw on the floor last night, with all the people sleeping on it."

Loretta and Gerald Hoffman took on the part of emergency hosts Sunday night when a fast-moving blizzard stirred up near-zero visibility and snowdrifts on Minnesota 60, 2 miles east of St. James.

The snowdrifts had stopped a truck and all traffic behind it. Meanwhile, temperatures ranged from 5 above zero to 5 below zero, with the wind making it feel colder.

The Hoffmans and their two sons rounded up the travelers and invited them inside. Those assembled represented three countries, five states, 21 cars and four semi-trucks, and they ranged in age from 3 weeks to over 70 years.

Terri Peters of St. James, who was traveling with her son, was one of the guests.

Eggs for Breakfast

"We were coming from the Twin Cities, and we're glad we made it," she said. "The Hoffmans have been super. They were terrific. We had sandwiches during the night, and we had eggs for breakfast."

Loretta Hoffman, a waitress at a St. James restaurant, said the travelers talked and played games before making beds on the floor.

"A few of us die-hards stayed up all night--there was no place to lie down," she said.

The sudden storm caught the Hoffmans at a good time, Loretta said. "It just so happened I had just bought groceries."

The highway was opened at mid-morning, and the guests began leaving.

Snow and icy wind spread from Minnesota through the Midwest on Monday.

Up to 15 inches of snow fell overnight in Ashland County, Wis., and the storm stranded scores of travelers in Minnesota, including those at the Hoffmans'.

In Alexandria in west-central Minnesota, where the temperature dropped to minus 9 degrees, 20 m.p.h. wind produced a windchill of 51 below zero. Minnesota authorities blamed two traffic deaths on poor visibility caused by blowing snow.

Guardsmen Help in Search

Gov. Rudy Perpich ordered a National Guard unit to help search for stranded motorists and assist ambulances in northwestern Polk County, a Guard spokesman said.

The Atlantic storm dumped snow that closed schools in southwestern Virginia and parts of Maryland.

Baltimore and three other counties implemented snow emergency plans in preparation for up to 8 inches of snow.

Florida's citrus and winter-vegetable growers went on alert Monday as temperatures plunged because of strong northern winds.

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