Stormbound shoppers stuck in Walmart for the night

CHATHAM, Ont. – A quick errand at Walmart turned into an overnight adventure for dozens of shoppers across southern Ontario when whiteout conditions prevented them from leaving the store, and employees inflated air mattresses and set up a buffet with cold cuts for unexpected guests.

“The cars were in ditches. Some of them had broken down in the middle of the road. No one could pass,” Heather Nickoli said of conditions in Chatham-Kent, Ont., Friday afternoon.

Nickoli and her boyfriend were en route from Ohio to Peterborough, Ont., to spend Christmas with her boyfriend’s family when deteriorating weather forced the closure of the 401 freeway.

The couple booked a room in Chatham-Kent and decided to stop by Walmart on the way, but they didn’t get far after shopping.

The police turned them away, telling them they wouldn’t even make it to their hotel and would have to spend the night at Walmart.

“We walked into Walmart and there were probably 100 people with nowhere to go. They were locals who couldn’t go home,” Nickoli said.

Randy Morton and his wife, meanwhile, lived just a mile away and ventured to Walmart because they were out of cat food. Boxes in hand, they too left the store to be turned away.

“I told the officer I just have to go to the next corner and I’m home. He said, ‘It doesn’t matter. Turn around and go back to Walmart. «

Walmart said in a statement that there were about 50 customers who spent the night in the store, including young children, and staff pulled games from shelves to keep people entertained.

The store’s deli team, meanwhile, served a hot dinner and games were removed from the shelves to keep customers and their children calm and entertained.

The statement said there was even an impromptu birthday party for an employee at midnight, complete with cake and candles.

« Our customers were fabulous sportsmen – launching into Christmas carols to keep their spirits up! » the statement said.

Another Walmart in Fort Erie, Ont., also took in a family that got stranded on Friday night, the statement said.

Everyone was allowed to leave on Saturday morning. Nickoli and her boyfriend ditched their trip to Peterborough and headed back to Ohio, while Morton and his wife returned home.

“I think when we got there everyone was in shock and they were a little upset. But they just said, ‘It is what it is’,” Nickoli said of the experience.

“My faith in humanity has been restored by the associates 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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