Blizzard Slams East Coast; Hundreds of Nebraska Kids Stranded on Pennsylvania Turnpike

Traffic is packed up on the Pennsylvania Turnpike at 3:00 a.m. Saturday morning. PHOTO COURTESY: Troy Uhlir of Norfolk
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A massive winter storm has paralyzed the Nation’s eastern sea board, as up to 40 inches of snow is expected in certain areas. Caught in the natural disaster are hundreds of Nebraska high school students and parents returning a day early from the March for Life event, held annually in Washington D.C. to advocate for anti-abortion policies. The students are part of a seven bus convoy sent from the Archdiocese of Omaha to participate in the rally.

As of 8:00 a.m. Saturday morning, six of those fully loaded busses remain stranded along a 5 miles stretch of the westbound lanes of the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Breezewood. Troy Uhlir of Norfolk, one of many chaperones on the bus that made it out of the blizzard safely, tells News Channel Nebraska that their bus was stopped several times as vehicles got stuck on the interstate. Shortly before 3:00 a.m., Uhlir and several other men on his bus full of Norfolk Catholic and O’Neill St. Mary’s students, helped push other vehicles as snow plows arrived.

Uhlir says that the other six busses had stopped at a truck stop for food as the storm continued to pound the area. Several of those busses remain stranded as of early Saturday morning on I-76 and are awaiting assistance from the Pennsylvania National Guard. Some of the busses remain at a truck stop at Cranberry, PA. Regan Simmons, an adult chaperone on one of the stranded busses, in an e mail received by several of those on the same trip said, “Our busses have been stopped on the Pennsylvania Turnpike due to stalled traffic. Crews have been working through the night to get all the traffic moving. Bus WAY (Uhlir’s bus) has cleared the congestion and reports that roads are clear as they drive and conditions are clear.”

Simmons then reports, “All busses have gas, water and food. We are in constant contact with the Archdiocese of Omaha and the tour agency. The atmosphere is prayerful and patient. We appreciate your prayers.”

Deacon Timothy F. McNeil, J.C.L., Chancellor of the Omaha Archdiocese tells News Channel Nebraska that 380 students and chaperones made the trip from communities all over the Archdiocese. He said, “the pilgrims are in constant contact with the Department of Transportation and that they are safe and in a good mood.” McNeill credits Arrow Stage Lines of Norfolk for their professionalism and appreciates the company’s constant communication with road crews and the Archdiocese. McNeil said, “The mood it patient and prayerful. We just need to get them home safe.”

McNeil added that he was comforted when he received a video of one of the Archdiocese’s seminarians playing the saxophone for the students outside a truck stop.

One unidentified Omaha Archdiocese student can be seen on video as he and others from one of the busses stranded on the Turnpike walk a half-mile from their bus to a nearby Interstate maintenance shop.

Students from Columbus Scotus, Humphrey St. Francis, and many other area Catholic schools are believed to be in one of the stranded busses at this hour.

Students from the Lincoln Diocese, including Falls City Sacred Heart, Lincoln and Wahoo, are also involved in the winter storm. At last check, two students from Sacred Heart were near Somerset, PA.