Temple Gymnastics Team Is Stranded on the PA Turnpike
After more than a day stuck on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the Temple women’s gymnastics team is just trying to stay positive.
“We’re just trying to get to an exit,” coach Umme Salim-Beasley told Philadelphia magazine at around 2 p.m. this afternoon. “We want to stay in a hotel; we don’t want to have to sleep on the bus for another night.”
The Temple gymnastics team was headed to a quad meet at Pittsburgh, scheduled to start at 6 p.m. today. The Owls left Philadelphia early yesterday afternoon, but were stopped a little before 3 in the afternoon about 15 miles past the Bedford exit. They’ve been there ever since, along with about 500 other vehicles.
State government said the 7-mile backup was caused yesterday when westbound tractor trailers were unable to climb a hill toward the Allegheny tunnels. As crews worked to free those tractor trailers, other trucks got stuck when they had to stop on the turnpike. It has taken so long to clear, Pennsylvania government officials say, in part because the backup has prevented turnpike road crews from being able to clear the snow for motorists.
“The point that someone’s bad judgment turns into a social problem is when that bad judgment causes things like what happened between at Bedford and Somerset,” Gov. Tom Wolf said at a news conference just after 2 today. “We cannot have that happen.”
New Baltimore FD has stopped by with a case of water pic.twitter.com/3J4z8bD0ll
— Mike Watts (@MWatts08) January 23, 2016
More than 135 first-responders have deployed to the turnpike backup; the National Guard has also been deployed. Salim-Beasley says the team has had a few contacts with first responders. At around 2 a.m. this morning, firefighters said they were trying to get vehicles turned around so they could get back to the Bedford exit. At 6 a.m., they came back to tell them the National Guard was helping vehicles get out.
But aside from firefighters on their ATVs, they haven’t seen anyone from the National Guard or any snowplows. Salim-Beasley said she was grateful to the New Baltimore Fire Department, which dropped off cases of water, coffee and donuts. “It doesn’t look like we’re moving anytime soon,” Salim-Beasley said.
Despite the long time on the bus, the team is staying positive. “I think the good thing is that we’re able to get up and move around,” Salim-Beasley said. “We’re not cramped. We’re able to move around. We have a bathroom. We always pack snacks when we travel. We have about $100 to $150 worth of snacks so the girls can stay fueled throughout the weekend.”
Members of the team are passing the time by studying, playing Uno, and watching DVDs. “Some of the girls have been studying, we have been playing cards, the girls have been singing and doing hair,” Salim-Beasley said. But, she added: “We’ve watched all the movies that we’ve brought with us.”
Wolf said first responders are working at getting the motorists free. “The plan is to try to get them and the vehicles off,” he said. “But our first priority is the safety of those human beings. I believe [we’ll have] either shelters in place or move them with buses to shelters that are fixed and that we can get them to. So we’re working sending buses in there, as quickly as we can, and in the meantime we’re checking on each vehicle … making sure people have fuel and have what they need to survive until the buses arrive.”
PennDOT says it doesn’t look like traffic will be moving tonight. Well, at least the Temple Owls have snacks and movies.
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