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More than 100 drivers stranded in Indiana snow

December 14, 2010

EARLY WINTER ... Winter has arrived early in Decatur and Adams County. (Photo by J Swygart)

    LAPORTE, Ind.  (AP) — A slow-moving storm that brought bone-chilling cold and dropped heavy snow that caused dozens of accidents, stranded more than 100 motorists and collapsed the roof of an NFL stadium made its way out of the Midwest.
    The storm continued its trek northeast early Tuesday over the Great Lakes and into Canada. More snow was possible for parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York on Tuesday. The cold temperatures stretched into the South, where hard freeze warnings were in effect overnight in several states.
    The slow-moving storm that has been crawling across the Midwest since Friday night brought wind and lake effect snow to Indiana, where more than 100 vehicles were stuck Monday on snow-covered highways. At least 16 deaths have been attributed to the storm, which dumped nearly 2 feet of snow in parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin before moving into Michigan and Indiana.
    Kate Ergang and her friend, Allison Frank, were among an unknown number trapped on U.S. 30. They were driving home to Crown Point on Sunday after visiting friends in central Indiana. All was fine until they reached Wanatah, about 35 miles southwest of South Bend.
    “It was a whiteout. It was like a tornado of snow,” Ergang said.
    Unable to see if a car was in front of her, Frank would nudge her 2000 Ford Focus slowly forward, stopping periodically, before all traffic came to a standstill about 7 p.m. because two semi-tractors had jackknifed at an interchange east of Valparaiso. Frank turned the car off, and the two made beds in their seats with the blankets and pillows.
    In the morning, they flagged down a police officer headed the opposite way who told them a 7-mile stretch of the highway had been closed. The road to Wanatah opened a little later, about 6:30 a.m., and they headed back there. They and dozens of other motorists spent the next three hours in a service station convenience store, where they could use the bathroom and bought food.
    “It was definitely a relief to get out of the car and get in the warmth and talk with somebody else about what was going on,” Ergang said when reached by phone later at home.
    Indiana state police Lt. Lou Brown said some people made the situation worse by driving on roads that were closed or abandoning vehicles that got stuck.
    “People would get into a snowdrift and couldn’t go anywhere so they’d just leave the vehicle to get out of the weather,” he said. “It just plugs things up and then snow plows can’t get around them.”
    At least nine people in four states, including Indiana, died in traffic accidents related to the storm, and a 79-year-old man snow-blowing the end of his driveway in western Wisconsin was killed when a plow backed into him.
    Five more died after shoveling or blowing snow, and Kenneth Swanson, 58, of rural River Falls, Wis., died when a metal shed collapsed from the heavy snow, pinning him under debris and about 3 feet of snow.
    Along with the wind and snow, the upper Midwest was gripped by frigid temperatures brought by arctic air that swept in behind the storm. Wind chills were below zero in many places Monday.
    Katie Muratore, a 20-year-old biology major at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, wore a calf-length overcoat with a fur-lined hood and hid her face behind a thick scarf as she hurried along a walkway between the campus and state Capitol. She usually takes the bus to class, but everyone else had the same idea Monday and she couldn’t find any room.
    ‘‘It’s like sardines on the bus today,’’ Muratore said.
    The 12-degree temperature didn’t stop hundreds of fans from lining up hours before free tickets to Monday night’s football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New York Giants became available at 9 a.m. at Ford Field. The game was moved to Detroit after the Minneapolis Metrodome’s inflated roof collapsed Sunday under the weight of heavy snow. The Lions said about 30,000 tickets were distributed before 11 a.m.
    In Minneapolis, crews began inspecting the roof with hopes of getting it repaired in time for the Vikings’ next home game, Dec. 20 against Chicago.
    ‘‘Everyone is going as quickly as they can and as safely as they can,’’ said Pat Milan, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission that operates the Metrodome.
    ———
    Associated Press writers Ken Kusmer and Tom Davies in Indianapolis, Todd Richmond in Madison, Wis., Jeff Karoub in Dearborn, Mich., Chris Williams in Minneapolis and Larry Lage in Detroit contributed to this report.

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