Story County ARES Assists EMA with closing of I-35

[from Story County EMA, with permission]

It Takes A Community: I-35 Closure Response

While most of Story County slept, the hard work of Ames, Iowa State University, Story County Emergency Management, the Ames Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, and Story County Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) came together to take care of travelers stranded by the early morning closure of Interstate 35. Starting as early as October of last year these organizations started working to prepare for this event by practicing activation of a plan to ensure travelers and truck drivers had a place to go if I-35 was closed down.

When the weather forecast indicated the potential for an I-35 shutdown, the Allyson Walter of the Ames Convention and Visitor’s Bureau polled the hotels to see how many rooms would be available should we need to house travelers. Corey Mellies of Ames Public Works prepositioned electronic signs to direct travelers from Highway 30 to safe areas within Ames if the road was closed.

When Story County Emergency Management was notified that I-35 was going to close, they worked with Ames Public Works to activate electronic message signs guiding travelers to the Dayton St exit where they could find a hotel room or allow truckers continue on to Iowa State University who were prepared to allow them to stay in the parking lots near Hilton Coliseum. At 1 am in the morning, Clint Miller of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) was activated to contact travelers using CB radios to notify them of the closure and help guide them to locations where they could stay until the gates were opened on I-35.

The response to the I-35 closure represents what emergency management calls a ‘Whole Community’ response which involves public, private, and volunteer organizations coming together to prepare and respond to emergencies. The time and effort spent by these organizations planning and preparing for this event allowed Story County to rapidly react to the closure of I-35 and ensure travelers passing through our state were safe and well taken care of. Disasters can strike at any time and it is only through efforts to plan, train, and exercise that communities and volunteer organizations, like the I-35 closure group, can be ready to quickly step in and help their community and neighbors. Story County Emergency Management Coordinator, Keith Morgan, ask that everyone consider volunteering with a disaster response organization to help make our communities better prepared.