Storm-stranded shoppers stuck in Walmart for the night
CHATHAM, Ont. – A quick errand at Walmart became an overnight adventure for dozens of shoppers in Southern Ontario when power outages kept them inside the store and staff inflated inflatable mattresses and set up a deli buffet for the unexpected guests.
“The cars were in the ditch. Some of them collapsed in the middle of the street. No one came by,” Heather Nickoli said of conditions in Chatham-Kent, Ontario, on Friday afternoon.
Nickoli and her boyfriend were en route from Ohio to Peterborough, Ontario to spend Christmas with their boyfriend’s family when deteriorating weather forced Highway 401 to be closed.
The couple booked a room in Chatham-Kent and decided to stop at Walmart along the way, but they didn’t get far after shopping.
The police sent them back and told them they couldn’t even make it to their hotel and that they had to spend the night at Walmart.
“We went to Walmart and there were probably 100 people with nowhere to go. They were locals who couldn’t go back to their homes,” Nickoli said.
Randy Morton and his wife, meanwhile, lived just a mile away and ventured into Walmart after running out of cat food. They also left the store, cans in hand, only to be rejected.
“I told the officer I just have to go to the next corner and I’ll be home. He said: “It doesn’t matter. Turn around and go back to Walmart.’”
Walmart said in a statement that about 50 customers spent the night in the store, including some young children, and that employees pulled games from the shelves to keep people entertained.
Meanwhile, the store’s delicatessen team served a hot dinner and games were pulled from the shelves to keep customers and their children calm and entertained.
The statement said there was even an impromptu birthday party for one employee at midnight, complete with cake and candles.
“Our clients were fabulous sports – they burst out into Christmas carols to keep the spirits high!” the statement said.
Another Walmart in Fort Erie, Ontario, was also home to a family who was stranded Friday night, the statement said.
Everyone was allowed to leave on Saturday morning. Nickoli and her boyfriend cut short their trip to Peterborough and returned to Ohio while Morton and his wife went home.
“I think when we got there everyone was shocked and a little bit upset. But they just said, ‘It is what it is,'” Nickoli said of the experience.
“My faith in humanity has been restored by the staff who work at Chatham Walmart,” Morton noted.
– By Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on December 24, 2022.
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