HAMBURG, Pa. (AP) – National Guardsmen in Humvees ferried food, fuel and baby supplies Thursday to hundreds of motorists stranded on a 50-mile stretch of highway for nearly a day by a monster storm blamed for 15 deaths.

The traffic jam on the icy, hilly section of Interstate 78 in eastern Pennsylvania forced authorities to also shut down portions of I-81 and I-80 Thursday afternoon as they struggled to gain ground on the colossal traffic jam.

Drivers were frustrated they were let on the road at all. State police did not close all the entrance ramps to I-78 until around 5 p.m., more than 24 hours after vehicles started getting caught.

“Why would they have that exit open if they were just going to let us sit there?” said a crying Deborah Miller. Her 5-year-old son was trapped in the car with her, running a 103-degree fever from strep throat.

The sprawling storm system hit Wednesday and blew out to sea Thursday, leaving huge snow piles, frigid temperatures and tens of thousands without power across the Midwest and Northeast.

Numerous areas saw more than a foot of snow, with 42 inches falling in the southern Adirondacks in New York. Gusty wind had morning wind chills below zero, and in some areas, the snow was followed by several inches of ice.

A few flights were canceled Thursday after numerous cancelations Wednesday, and many school districts that had canceled classes Wednesday extended the unplanned vacation by an extra day.

“This storm was rare because of the unusual amount of snow and ice,” Pennsylvania Transportation Secretary Allen D. Biehler said. “This series of accidents that blocked our way made it really, really difficult.”

By early Thursday evening, state police said the logjam was breaking on the highways and traffic was creeping along. Nearly all cars were off the highway, but the trucks were asked to stay on the interstate because side roads were in such bad shape, state police said.

Eugene Coleman, who is hyperglycemic, was trapped for 20 hours while on his way home to Hartford, Conn. from visiting his terminally ill mother in Georgia, along with his girlfriend and pregnant daughter.

“How could you operate a state like this? It’s totally disgusting,” Coleman said. “God forbid somebody gets really stuck on the highway and has a life-threatening emergency. That person would have died.”

Authorities also were flooded with calls from frustrated motorists wanting to know why the road hadn’t reopened.

Police said they took fuel to some motorists and food to others, including several diabetics who called 911.



Associated Press writers Patrick Walters in Philadelphia, Peter Jackson in Harrisburg, Pa., contributed to this report.

AP-ES-02-15-07 1924EST


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.