Stranded travelers, snowbound residents benefit from ex-military gear

By Ken MacNevin

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The day after Christmas was no day of relaxation for hundreds of people stranded when a massive snow storm shut down an interstate highway about 40 miles east of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

DLA had a hand in a successful emergency response after the highway’s eastbound lanes were closed and three shelters opened in the I-40 straddling town of Moriarty in Torrance County.

The helping hand came in the form of excess military equipment from large to small, from very heavy to as light as goose down.

Sheriff’s Lieutenant John Stocum said what they had gotten in past years for emergencies through DLA’s Law Enforcement Support Office was used to help, and it was more than people that needed help.

Based on various news reports, an estimated 300 to 500 stranded travelers sought shelter at the Lion’s Club, the Moriarty Civic Center and the Moriarty High School annex gym. But the published news reports seen online failed to mention that there were animals, too. Pets had been in vehicles, along with their humans. “Our shelters were set up for people, but not pets,” Stocum said. “Because of the animal traps/cages we obtained from [LESO], we were able to house pets right with the owners for two days.”

Stocum said they had picked up live trap cages at the DLA Disposition Services site at Holloman Air Force Base only intending to use them for animal control.

It wasn’t just the cages that were put to new use. A dump truck the department had picked up at DLA Disposition Services Colorado Springs was made into a snow plow. In a telephone interview, Stocum said that was easy because the truck already had the hydraulics for a plow when they got it.

The department had also gotten a heavy tactical truck tractor earlier from Kirtland Air Force Base because they had equipment that needed pulling. It was never meant to be a snow plow, but a blade was jury rigged onto that vehicle as well.

He said the two plow-equipped trucks were used outside Moriarty because people in rural areas needed help, too.

Having those let us get emergency help, including food, firewood, and medicine, to our rural residents,” he said.

Some of the property they held the longest got used exactly as originally intended.

“We had gotten some mummy [sleeping] bags through the program when we first joined up,” he said, “and people sure were glad to use those. What we got through the program really made a difference for us.”

As of Dec. 30, Stocum said the shelters for the stranded people (and pets) were no longer needed and had been shut down, but some parts of I-40 remained closed.