Accident strands hundreds on snowy N.Y. highway

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 I-90 at 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 I-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.

Jack Geiselman, who was stranded for 14 hours in 32-degree weather, took it all in stride.

"I tend not to be a ranter-and-raver about things and the point is, it's nothing I have any control over," the 60-year-old semi-retired civil engineer said. "I guess the way I look at it is, it's over. I guess stuff happens. It's not the end of the world."

Geiselman was traveling in a Honda Civic from Keene, N.Y., to Cleveland with his black lab Boomer to help his daughter get her house ready for a baby due between Christmas and New Year. He had with him a sleeping bag and plenty of warm clothing and gas. He said state troopers came by with coffee and food for people in cars.

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.

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.