BUFFALO, N.Y. — Hundreds of cold and hungry motorists spent hours Thursday stranded on a western New York highway after an accident caused a backup and the idling trucks and cars got stuck in heavy snow.
A Lake Erie-fed storm that began Wednesday and continued through Thursday buried parts of Buffalo and some suburbs under more than 2 feet of snow. Downtown Buffalo was largely spared. Dozens of schools canceled classes.
Police closed Interstate 90 about 3 a.m. Thursday after a truck jackknifed the previous evening and vehicles became backed up and buried in blowing snow, State Trooper Daniel Golinski said. Drivers also were stranded on a 3-mile stretch of Interstate 190.
Though parts of I-90, better known as the New York Thruway, were reopened by midday, an 11-mile stretch remained closed as darkness fell. Traffic, mostly big rigs, was backed up for about two miles in the eastbound lanes and a mile headed west after sunset. Authorities expected it would take several more hours to clear the mess.
"The wheels are not moving and we're making nothing," said Don Lanphere, 51, a trucker for 32 years who was hauling dog food. "The only guys making money are the plow operators."
Jack Geiselman, who was stranded for 14 hours in 32-degree weather in a Honda Civic, took it all in stride. "It's nothing I have any control over," the 60-year-old semi-retired civil engineer said. "It's not the end of the world."
Emergency crews on ATVs passed out water and protein bars, and buses picked up motorists and delivered them to a shelter at a senior citizen center.
State Police had no reports of medical emergencies, although one older motorist who uses oxygen was among the stranded and was taken to safety, said Capt. Michael Nigrelli.
Nigrelli said the combination of fast-falling snow and the large number of commercial vehicles — many of which had to be towed out after the snow piled up around them — made reopening the road slow-going.
Some truckers left the road to find refuge at truck stops, parking lots and city streets, but most kept their rigs parked on the highway.
A snow warning was in effect until late Thursday night, with several more inches possible before the storm was expected to drift south, meteorologists said. Additional snow was in today's forecast, though in lesser amounts.