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Adams opens up village to snowbound travelers


ADAMS — On their way back to their home in Ottawa, Ify Ozonwanji, 19, and her family found themselves stranded at the McDonald’s restaurant with other travelers when the blowing and falling snow caused the lack of visibility on Interstate 81 to be too much.

Returning from vacation in New York City, Ms. Ozonwanji, her mother, two sisters and brother stayed at the fast-food restaurant for a few hours until they were told to go over to the village of Adams fire station, where more than 150 other travelers also ended up.

But the family, originally from Nigeria, did not have to stay at the fire hall for long. Out of the kindness of village residents Marvel J. and Nevario “Bud” Masters, the family stayed at the couple’s North Park Street home for the night until they could get back on the road.

About 45 travelers in all found homes away from home for the night, said Robert D. Simpson, public information officer for the Adams Fire Department. Fire department officials used social media to find places for them to stay, he said.

Ms. Ozonwanji said her mother, Mary, a diplomat with the Nigerian government, appreciated the hospitality.

“They were really, really nice,” Ms. Ozonwanji said.

During their stay, the 150 travelers were fed and made to feel welcome while they waited for I-81 to reopen. When state police finally did open it at 2 p.m. Wednesday, the travelers quickly loaded back into their vehicles and went on their way.

Fire halls in Carthage, West Carthage, town of Watertown and Natural Bridge also opened up for stranded travelers.

On Tuesday night, fire department officials had to scramble to make their stay as comfortable as possible. The fire department did not have enough cots for them to sleep on, but the American Red Cross showed up with more. Local restaurants donated food for the stranded motorists, many of whom were Canadian.

“They were from different places,” Mr. Simpson said, noting that Adams residents have stepped up to the plate to help travelers before.

Mrs. Masters remembered offering her home to stranded motorists during a bad snowstorm back in the late 1990s, so when community activist Connie A. Elliot called for help this time, they naturally said yes.

With room for only three people, she and her husband — who retired in June as pastor of the Adams Village Baptist Church — did whatever they could to make the family as comfortable as possible before they went on their way. They had a breakfast of eggs and ham, homemade corn bread and apple butter.

They talked to the family, consisting of a 10th-grader and three college students, about how the mother works for the Nigerian government and how they moved to Ottawa three years ago.

“It was really interesting,” she said.

Ninety-three-year-old Mollie L. Bangs also provided her home to a family of five from Quebec, who were traveling back from a Florida vacation and did not bring any winter clothing with them. Mrs. Bangs, who had people stay with her during the great snowstorm of 1977, offered her four upstairs bedrooms to her visitors.

“They were very nice people,” she said.

Mrs. Elliot, who helped organized the village efforts, was not surprised that residents opened up their homes. Before the motorists left, she invited them back for the annual cheese festival in July.

“I promised them we wouldn’t have snow,” she said.

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