East Coast blizzard: Hundreds of motorists stranded on Pennsylvania Turnpike

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About 500 vehicles are stuck on the Pennsylvania Turnpike because of snow, state police say.

Two of them are the buses carrying the Duquesne University men’s basketball team and the Temple University women’s gymnastics team.

They spent Friday night on the bus and, according to a Duquense team report on social media, may very well repeat the experience Saturday night.

“It is becoming increasingly unlikely that #DUQMBB will be able to leave the Turnpike tonight. Preparing for another night on the bus,” said a tweet sent at 3:20 p.m.

The Duquesne team was heading home to Pittsburgh after Friday afternoon’s victory against George Mason University in Virginia when the bus came to a “dead stop” about 9:15 p.m., head coach Jim Ferry told CNN.

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The guys are trying to make the best of a trying situation, Ferry said of the 7-mile standstill. “They’re almost using it as a team-building experience,” he said.

To pass the time, they posted polls on Twitter on Friday asking who should have to push the bus or who should get voted off the bus in case “desperate times call for desperate measures.” They made angels in the snow and visited a group of middle-schoolers from Iowa on the neighboring bus.

On Saturday, they’d run out of food and water as snow continued to pile up around them, but the National Guard and the local fire department delivered water.

About noon some teammates set off to find their own food. “Walking to HOPEFULLY have dominos drop off pizza from an overpass. 3/4 mile in 2+ feet of snow,” the team tweeted.

“This group has been through a lot together and we’re gonna get through this together,” Ferry said.

The Temple gymnastics team became stuck while heading to the University of Pittsburgh for a competition.

They also were making the best of a bad situation, tweeting: “We’ve hit the 24 hour mark on the bus! Still stuck out here on the @PA_Turnpike but staying warm and positive #Snowzilla”.

Coach Umme Salim-Beasley told Philly.com the team had plenty of snacks and movies to watch. “Thankfully, we have a bus with a bathroom,” she said.

The westbound lanes of the turnpike backed up Friday night after several tractor-trailers jacknifed on the eastern slope of the mountain approaching the Allegheny Tunnel around milepost 123 between Somerset and Bedford, CNN affiliate WPMT reported.

A few vehicles are being turned around and let off the turnpike through Bedford County. Nobody is being charged to exit the turnpike, said Pennsylvania State Police spokeswoman Renee Colburn.

Other people on the turnpike told of seeing no movement.

Claire Jackson, 17, told CNN on Saturday morning that her bus had been at an “absolute standstill” on the turnpike since 8 p.m. Friday.

“I just see cars,” said Jackson, who was with about 50 students going from Washington home to Kansas City, Missouri. “All the hazards are blinking.”

At a press conference, Gov. Tom Wolf said fire and rescue crews have checked on all stranded motorists to make sure they had food, water and gas. Shelters were being opened for people who need further assistance, he said.

Wolf urged all motorists to stay off the road. If they don’t, he may institute a travel ban, as other governors have done. “We need everybody in Pennsylvania to exercise self-restraint,” he said.

The governor said other sections of the state are not reporting serious problems, but warned that the snow may get worse.

“It’s coming down at a really amazing rate, 2-3 inches an hour at some places,” he said.

 

I-77 reopens in West Virginia

In West Virginia, a section of I-77 north of Charleston reopened on Saturday after National Guard members were dispatched to help move stuck tractor trailers.

The West Virginia transportation department Facebook page said that one lane was open for traffic as crews worked to clear the road.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported that 150-200 vehicles, mostly tractor trailers, had been stranded there overnight.

Traffic flows again on I-75 in Kentucky

In Kentucky, I-75 reopened to traffic Saturday morning. Hundreds of motorists had been stuck for as many as 19 hours along a hilly 35-mile stretch of I-75 in central Kentucky because of the snowstorm.

Motorists talked about long waits to move.

April Gilliam-Montesinos said she braked her car to a halt at 1 p.m. Friday, with vehicles snaked ahead of and behind her. She, her father and her two daughters — ages 4 and 14 — huddled in the car overnight, with no food and water.

She used Twitter to ask state police for help.

“They sent an officer out here, but he didn’t know what he was coming out here for, so he didn’t bring anything with him,” Gilliam-Montesinos said. “So he actually gave my dad his own snacks so my dad’s blood sugar wouldn’t drop.”

The jam finally relented after 8 a.m. Saturday, she said, and the family drove off — 19 hours after they first stopped.

State and local police, firefighters, and Red Cross workers traversed the stretch, trying to deliver supplies, while National Guard troops helped remove crashed or abandoned vehicles to get traffic moving, state police Trooper Kendra Wilson said