The Trans-Canada opens after a nightmarish 24-hour closure

By David F. Rooney

The Trans-Canada Highway is once again opened in both directions after a nightmarish closure that lefts hundreds of travellers stranded for the night.

The highway was closed from Thursday afternoon until 2 pm Friday because of high avalanche hazards in Eagle and Rogers Passes.

Travellers stuck here overnight called everywhere looking for accommodations and while many people opened up their homes to families and individuals, other sought to take advantage of their predicament lending a new, Revel-stick-up  twist to the old Revel-stuck saying.

Here’s one ad that showed up on The Stoke List:

“Why stay at the rec-center? $379.00 no tax

“Room for rent due to the highway closure. Accomidations include a double, a feather duvet, a tiger pillow, private washroom and a coffee in the a.m. $379.00 and we will take care of the pst and gst.”

That single ad prompted a backlash on the Stoke List and Facebook. Here’s one of several comments posted on The Stoke List:

“Any true revelstokian local would just help people outta the goodness of their heart! This is why we live in this amazing small town… because of the heart it has! Very very sad people posting a place to stay for a dollar amount… Disgusts me.”

Ads like that one hurt the reputation of our community.

All through this particular closure the City worked with the Chamber of Commerce to find accommodation for those who needed it.

Information Director Lyle Huntley said late Friday that Emergency Social Services set up a Warming Centre at the Community Centre that was visited by about 50 families. And Chamber Executive Director Judy Goodman said she and staffer Lise Somerville handled scores of phone calls from people seeking accommodation. That was made difficult because some hoteliers did not know whether all of their bookings would actually come through.

One issue of concern is the City’s failure to connect with the local news media regarding the closure and what was being done to assist travellers. Although they City did, according to Huntley, attempt to use Stoke FM and social media to try and reach an undefined segment of the population, it ignored the two professional news media outlets — The Times Review and The Current, which in fact employ the only professional journalists in our community — and made no effort to apprise them of what was going on.

Both news outlets experience large readership spikes when there are major closures and the City should not ignore them.

The Times Review did have a brief story about the Warming Centre but that was due solely to RCMP Staff Sgt. Kurt Grabinsky’s foresight in passing along that titbit to Time Review Editor Aaron Orlando at the conclusion of a discussion about the RCMP’s recent new release regarding search and rescue operations. He also checked the City’s website to see if anyone had posted information about the local reaction to the closure. He found nothing; nor did I when I checked later in the evening.

Orlando and I both believe that our news sites should, in the future, be promptly alerted to these kinds of operations.

Does City Hall really want to rely on The Stoke List and social media for the dissemination of reliable information? Give your heads a shake.