Whether drivers were coming home from work, or making a long trip for the holidays, those plans came to a screeching halt Thursday night on U.S. 20 between Lena and Elizabeth.
In some spots, that 25 mile stretch was closed for more than a day. About 100 drivers were rescued between Lena and Stockton and those travelers were getting back on the road Friday, after pressing pause for the night.
"They had said that there was an accident on 20, but it was earlier so I thought it would be cleared up so I started home," Freeport resident Jackie Calam said.
"We foolishly though either we could beat the storm or that the forecasters, as they usually are, were kind of over-blowing it," Chicago resident Stephen Maier said.
Unfortunately, Calam and Maier were wrong. A rollover accident caused a backup on the highway for miles and drivers were either sacrificing gas or heat during the delay.
Soon, volunteer Lena Firefighters, the Stephenson County Sheriff's Department, and State Troopers stepped in and passengers abandoned their cars for a night spent in the Lena Fire Department building.
"Lot of them were transported in our rescue truck and private vehicles," Lena Fire Department Chief Brad Strong said. "The sheriff's department had some vehicles here, and we had vehicles, and as we picked them up, we brought them in."
Soon, even emergency vehicles couldn't reach the stranded cars in the inclement weather. Luckily, some volunteer firefighters are also members of the Lena Blackhawk Trailblazers, a snowmobile club. Rescuers on snowmobiles were able to reach passengers, pick them up, bring them to a personal vehicle, and send them on their way to the fire department.
The snowmobiles marked the final option for some stranded drivers, who sat waiting until the late evening hours.
"That was my last chance," one driver said. "Either I go now or I sit in my truck all night."
Cars were towed to the fire department for pick up.
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