When Wentzville Mayor Nick Guccione presented a check to the Meals on Wheels program after a Christmas concert at the city’s Green Lantern Senior Center at noon Friday, he had no idea that his day was about to get very complicated.
Just about the time that the Heritage Elementary School Fifth Grade choir finished up its last song, a cold rain began to fall over western St. Charles County, freezing to car windshields, sidewalks, and roadways.
Cars, school buses, and even salt trucks began slip-sliding into curbs and ditches. Traffic on the area’s highways came to a complete stop, stranding school buses, commuters, and even emergency responders.
Guccione keeps a close watch on social media, and one post in particular caught his eye. A young mother from Troy, the wife of a St. Louis County police officer, was unable to get home with her two children. Guccione knew that all the hotels in Wentzville were sold out, so he contacted City Administrator David Gipson and Police Chief Kurt Frisz about the possibility of opening up a city facility for a shelter.
“We agreed that the police department would be the best place, for security purposes,” Guccione said. He arranged to meet with the family at a nearby gas station and he escorted them to the city’s courts facility at the police station.
Guccione got the family settled in with the assistance of police lieutenant Manny Borroum, who provided blankets and bedding as well as some personal care items.
Some college students who were also unable to get to Troy, and a young homeless man also took advantage of the emergency shelter after Guccione announced it on Facebook.
Guccione was out on the streets all evening, assessing road conditions and giving updates, as well as trying to help stranded motorists.
“I had my police radio on me, so I was monitoring everything going on in the city,” Guccione said. “I was also communicating back and forth with the street department and the police chief, trying to direct resources where they were needed when the buses were stuck.”
But the mayor did not manage to escape the treacherous conditions. “About 1 a.m., I hit a curb . . . my car is in the shop as we speak,” he said. “But it was all worth it. I was able to make a difference and help people get home and make sure they were safe.”
With a repeat of Friday night’s weather conditions, snow and bitter cold in the forecast for the rest of the weekend, Guccione is thinking ahead. “If need be, we will open shelters for warming centers. Crews are out working the streets, and we will address any situation that may arise.”
“I would just urge people to stay off the roads unless they absolutely have to be out . . . it would be safer for everyone.”