PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) — Members of the Temple University women’s gymnastics team became stranded in the snow after the bus they were travelling in got stuck in a massive backup that stretched for miles along the Pennsylvania Turnpike brought on by a powerful winter storm.
The team of 14 gymnasts, three coaches and an athletic trainer was braving the weather and heading to a gymnastics meet at the University of Pittsburgh when traffic came to a halt. It still hadn’t moved on Saturday.
“There are a few other cars and trucks,” Michael Watkins, Temple’s athletic trainer told Eyewitness News, “but everyone has just been at a standstill since about 8 (Friday night).”
Watkins said the bus departed Philadelphia around 2 p.m. Friday, but the trip came to a stop about 80 miles east of Pittsburgh in Somerset County.
“We been keeping in touch with our families, but we’re running low on power,” Watkins said. “Some of us still have phone (power) left, so we’re keeping in contact with everyone. We’re a little fortunate that we have a bathroom and still have some snacks on the bus.”
The National Guard was called out to provide food and water, as well as chains and shovels while emergency workers on all-terrain vehicles checked on stranded motorists. Officials closed a 90-mile stretch of the roadway to allow maintenance workers to focus on those who were stuck.
Temple gymnastics coach Umme Salim-Beasley said her team usually travels with a large amount of snacks “so those came in handy,” and fire department personnel brought them water.
“We always bring movies for our bus trip,” she said, “and we have gone through all of them and we’ll probably start watching them again.”
Governor Tom Wolf said the problems began after tractor-trailers traveling westbound were unable to climb a hill. As traffic backed up behind them, more trucks also became unable to go up the hill, backing up all vehicles and preventing emergency crews from getting heavy-duty tow trucks to the scene and road crews from being able to clear the snow.
“We have now checked every vehicle at least once to make sure that the people have food, to make sure that they have fuel to keep the engines running so that the heat stays on,” the governor said. “We are working to get shelters in place as quickly as possible (for) those folks who need to have more food or toilet facilities.”
More than 500 cars, trucks and buses were struck, including another bus carrying the Duquesne men’s basketball team and a group of 96 parishioners, mostly teens, from an Indiana church.
State officials were advising residents to avoid travel and “hunker down.”
Saturday night, the gymnastics team’s Twitter account posted the following tweet, explaining the rest of their journey. The Owls received help from local and state authorities and their bus reportedly started moving after guardrails were removed to allow the bus to turn around.
— TEMPLE GYMNASTICS (@TUWG) January 24, 2016
(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)