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Indiana parishioners stranded in snow storm

Indiana parishioners stranded in snow storm
Posted at 2:27 PM, Jan 23, 2016

PHILADELPHIA -- Snowbound college athletes and teenage parishioners spent the night stranded on the Pennsylvania Turnpike -- munching on snacks or watching movies to pass the time as they waited to be dug out from massive backups that stretched for miles brought on by a powerful winter storm.

Cars, trucks and buses that got stuck Friday night still hadn't moved on Saturday, including buses carrying the Duquesne men's basketball team and the gymnastics squad from Temple University. A group of 96 parishioners from an Indiana church -- mostly teens -- we also among the stranded.

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.

"We haven't moved one inch," said Duquesne coach Jim Ferry told The Associated Press on Saturday morning.

Ferry said his players were running out of the leftover pizza they bought on the way home from an 86-75 win over George Mason on Friday afternoon.

"We're getting pretty hungry," he said. "We hope it starts moving pretty soon."

Gov. Tom Wolf's office said the problems in Somerset County began after westbound tractor-trailers 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, officials said.

The church group was returning from the March for Life in Washington, D.C. Father Shaun Whittington said they had enough gas to keep the buses running and enough DVDs to keep the kids entertained.

"We've been warm and we've had food, we've watched some movies and slept and prayed," he said. "Everybody's in good spirits."

Whittington called it a surprise, but not scary.

"We're on a pilgrimage, there's going to be suffering with that," he said. "We've got to take it as it comes."

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, and we have gone through all of them and we'll probably start watching them again," she said.

Ferry said his players were also in good spirits, passing the time with jokes and watching movies.

"But you got to remember we have some big guys, so it's hard to sleep on a bus like this," he said.

Salim-Beasley, however, said her team's training has made spending hours on a cramped bus more bearable than it might be for others.

"We are a gymnastics team," she said. "So we can get into positions that most people won't be able to get into."


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