Pennsylvania Guardsmen Help Thousands of Storm-Stranded Motorists

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2007 - About 500 Pennsylvania National Guard members were called up to assist thousands of motorists stranded for almost a day on icy highways, a Pennsylvania state official said today.

An immense winter storm that paralyzed the Midwest and eastern United States over the past several days caused nearly 24 hours of gridlock involving hundreds of motorists on a 50-mile stretch of Interstate 78 between Allentown, Pa., and Harrisburg, the state capital, Kevin Cramsey, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, said today.

The road closings "really began Wednesday afternoon and pretty much continued all day yesterday," Cramsey said, noting the storm quickly deposited layers of slick ice on I-78 and other state roads, catching local commuters, passers-through and truckers by surprise. The storm's magnitude caused Gov. Edward Rendell to declare a statewide disaster emergency.

Snow, sleet and freezing rain brought by the storm also made portions of Interstates 81 and 80 impassable, Cramsey said during a phone interview from Pennsylvania National Guard headquarters at Fort Indiantown Gap.

Ultimately, thousands of motorists were stranded on icy Pennsylvanian roads, Cramsey said.

"It just created this logjam," he said. "Some tractor-trailers couldn't get moving, and it caused some chain-reaction accidents."

The Guardsmen provided water, baby formula and other food to motorists and truckers stranded on I-78 and along other ice-covered roadways, Cramsey said. The Guardsmen also helped direct traffic.

By the time the crisis had eased late yesterday, some 500 Pennsylvania National Guard members, including air crews, had been activated to assist motorists, Cramsey said. A few stranded motorists with health issues were evacuated by state police helicopters, he said.

As of this morning, the traffic congestion is gone and state road crews are busily salting and clearing icy highways, Cramsey said.

"It was a big situation," he said.

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