Snow strands teens on ski trip in northeast Pa. | VailDaily.com
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Snow strands teens on ski trip in northeast Pa.

MICHAEL RUBINKAM
Associated Press Writer

UNION DALE, Pa. – Dozens of students from Philadelphia spent the day at a Red Cross shelter in northeastern Pennsylvania on Friday, their class ski trip cut short by yet another strong February storm that delivered fresh piles of wind-driven snow.

The winter blast brought high winds and 2-6 inches of snow to parts of the state, with a foot or more accumulating in some areas. While the state dodged the brunt of the storm, messy conditions closed schools and caused a series of crashes that shut down a 60-mile stretch of the Pennsylvania Turnpike in central Pennsylvania; about 90 motorists had to be rescued.

In northeastern Pennsylvania, 57 students and nine chaperones from Calvary Christian Academy in northeast Philadelphia were stranded by the storm when their buses became stuck in 4-foot snow drifts Thursday afternoon a few miles from Elk Mountain ski resort. Their return home was delayed until at least Saturday as heavy snow made roads treacherous and a cracked radiator hobbled one of the buses.

They spent Thursday night and all day Friday at the shelter, but arranged to spend Friday night at a nearby lodge.

At the shelter, restless teens fought boredom in the wood-floored meeting hall of Union Dale United Methodist Church, about 35 miles northeast of Scranton, as National Guard mechanics worked to repair their broken-down vehicle.

“We already are stir-crazy,” said Pat Franks, 18, of Feasterville, wrapped in a Red Cross blanket as he got some fresh air outside. “Everybody’s going nuts. Everybody’s talking about what they would do if they were home. And I think it just makes it worse.”

Kids passed the time by playing cards, listening to music, lounging on cots and throwing snowballs at each other. Teachers challenged the students to a game of snow football. Everyone ate well, feasting on donated soup, pizza and roast beef for dinner, pancakes, eggs and sausage for breakfast, and hoagies for lunch.

It had already been a star-crossed trip even before the travel problems: one boy broke his collar bone in three places while skiing and two girls suffered minor injuries on the slopes.

While they waited, students offered a mealtime prayer for their injured classmate and thanked God for all of the help they had received.

“We’ve been blessed by the Union Dale fire department, the National Guard, Red Cross, and church members. We’re in great shape,” said the school’s principal, Al Schiavo, who was along on the trip.

Teens described a harrowing moment when one of the buses slid backward and crashed while trying to get up a hill. Neither bus wound up making the climb.

“I screamed,” said Ashley Donnelly, 18, of Philadelphia. “It was scary. I thought the bus was going to fall off the road.”

While expressing gratitude for the volunteers, students said they were anxious to get home. Donnelly’s mother was even driving from Philadelphia to pick her daughter up.

“I get homesick easily, and I miss my mom and my dad,” Donnelly said. “I just want to be home in my bed.”

In central Pennsylvania, as many as 20 tractor-trailers were involved in crashes that forced the shutdown of a 60-mile stretch of highway around 8 a.m.; two people sustained non-life-threatening injuries.

Emergency personnel helped motorists from a total of about 90 vehicles, turnpike spokesman Carl DeFebo said. Many were transported to service plazas for food, water and shelter. The roadway reopened to all traffic around 3 p.m.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation lifted most speed and vehicle restrictions related to the storm by Friday afternoon and utility companies across the state were reporting few outages.


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