Pennsylvania Turnpike traffic starts rolling again after standstill

Travelers stuck on the Pennsylvania Turnpike for almost 24 hours started rolling again Saturday night.

About 500 vehicle came to a standstill on a 7-mile stretch of the turnpike Friday because of bad weather, Pennsylvania State Police said, including the buses carrying the Duquesne University men’s basketball team and the Temple University women’s gymnastics team.

The teams said on social media that they expected to spend a second night on their buses, but messages sent on Twitter a few hours later indicated otherwise.

At about 8:15 p.m. the Duquense team tweeted, “We’re coming home @iamdiddy.”

Another tweet linked to a YouTube video showing players, coaches, and support staff members pushing the bus through the snow and onto the roadway.

The Temple team tweeted a video showing the bus in motion with the message “#TUG is on the move after more than 24 hours! *tears of joy”

Five buses full of Catholic high school students from Nebraska were stranded for 20 hours on the turnpike, Omaha Archdiocese Chancellor Tim McNeil told CNN.

“There were five buses heading home from the ‘March for life’ rally in DC that got stuck,” McNeil said.

“About an hour ago they were able to start moving again and they will spend the night in Bedford, Pennsylvania, in hotels and then assess the situation tomorrow to head home,” he said.

None of the students were injured and they were in good spirits, even holding a Mass in the snow on the side of the road, McNeil said.

Jacknifed tractor-trailers caused backup

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, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission said on its webpage.

Other traffic became stuck behind the jacknifed vehicles, including the Duquesne team. It 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.

To pass the time, they posted polls on Twitter 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.

“They’re almost using it as a team-building experience,” 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 the team had plenty of snacks and movies to watch. “Thankfully, we have a bus with a bathroom,” she said.

At a press conference on Saturday afternoon, Gov. Tom Wolf said fire and rescue crews had 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.

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