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Grand Forks County readies Alerus Center as possible emergency shelter


GRAND FORKS — A blizzard set to bring high winds, freezing rain and heavy snow could cut power to homes up and down the Red River Valley, and Grand Forks County officials are working to set up a shelter for people who might be affected.

The county is working to set up a warming shelter at the Alerus Center and plans to help thousands of people if power isn't restored for days. Emergency responders say potential outages are their biggest concern.

Should widespread, long-term outages happen, a team of emergency volunteers is on standby to staff the center and a trailer full of supplies from the American Red Cross is on site. The shelter will be located at door 2 of the center

"It will be a warming shelter, it won't have a lot to it," said Grand Forks County Emergency Manager Kari Goelz, adding that the shelter will be opened depending on how long power is out, and it wouldn't be open until after the storm.

"We don't know where the line of demarcation of rain and ice and snowfall is going to be," she said, explaining that everything depends on where the storm will land.

But with 60-mile-per-hour winds expected in parts of the region, power lines and power poles could be at risk of snapping, leaving many customers without electricity.

For now, emergency workers are advising people to take their own precautions to ride out the storm.

"Know that there's potential for a power outage . . . have food and water ready. Food that's nonperishable and that you can eat without having to cook," said Community Emergency Response Team member Gannon Engkvist. "Prepare to maybe stay in one room and put blankets over the windows and the doors to keep warm as best as possible."