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Hundreds of travelers stranded in Big Timber due to I-90 closure

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Sweet Grass County High Truck
Posted at 5:29 PM, Feb 01, 2023

Interstate 90 was closed Tuesday afternoon, stranding hundreds truckers and travelers in Big Timber overnight before the road reopened.

The town of 1,700 people nearly doubled its population over the past day. One of those "new residents" was traveling nurse Jessica Lee.

“I got here and got the last room that night," Lee said Wednesday morning. "And then I stayed also yesterday and probably will tonight as well."

Lee has been attempting to make the drive to Great Falls from Oklahoma, but her planned two-day trip turned into a weeklong nightmare that included two near crashes.

“At the end of the day, you can always have another job or get the money back, but you can’t get yourself or your pets back,” Lee said.

She's been hunkered down at the Super 8, and she certainly isn't alone. Anna Weatherspoon was traveling to Washington state with her daughter before they slid off the road near Butte and were rear-ended.

“We thought it’d be a really nice mother-daughter road trip,” Weatherspoon said.

The duo is now having their car towed to their final destination on the West Coast, while they catch a flight departing out of Billings Wednesday evening. It has been a hectic couple of days, but Weatherspoon said she's thankful for the hospitality that the entire community of Big Timber showed.

“Not ideal, but you know, we’re safe," Weatherspoon said. "The people here are extraordinary. I guess it’s the little-town effect."

The town has done all it can to provide meals and shelter to those in need these past few days. Lee said that while the Super 8 was completely booked out, nobody was forced to spend the night outside.

“They turned their fireplace on and let people sleep out here in the dining room, and even the laundry room and hallways," Lee said. "They did what they could just to get them out of the cold.”

As for the hundreds of truckers stranded in town, many found refuge at Sweet Grass County High School in Big Timber. Among those were Pat Cleland and Ryan Mirrielees, who were headed just north of Three Forks for a pick up, when the roads and their lack of weight forced them to stop.

“We’re both empty and when you get wind and ice, it don’t work very good when you’re empty,” Cleland said.

Mirrielees said that while it has been unfortunate, it's a part of the job.

“It’s just a part of trucking," Mirrielees said. "There’s no use getting upset or mad about it. It is what it is. It’s the weather. All we can do is sit tight and keep a good attitude."