Duquesne basketball, Temple gymnastics teams stuck in blizzard


The Duquesne men's basketball team and the Temple women's gymnastics team were stranded in traffic overnight because of the blizzard affecting the eastern United States, but an end to the now 24-hour ordeal might be in sight. 

A turnpike official says no one is expected to spend a second night on the snow-choked highway. Spokeswoman Renee Colburn says front-end loaders and members of the National Guard began to dig out cars and trucks Saturday afternoon.

The Dukes were traveling home to Pittsburgh from Fairfax, Virginia, after their 86-75 victory against George Mason on Friday. The team, which departed Fairfax at 4:30 p.m., is stuck on a stretch between Bedford and Somerset, Pennsylvania.

Duquesne coach Jim Ferry, who won his 300th game Friday, told SportsCenter on Saturday morning that the bus is about 80 miles from Pittsburgh.

"I think we're past the amusement part of it, that's for sure," Ferry told College GameDay via phone Saturday evening. "Everybody's OK, everybody's doing all right. We've got a special group of guys here. ... We always talk about focus on the things you can control."

Ferry said that his group hasn't seen many people around, but there has been talk from the National Guard about clearing out a lane to get vehicles moving "hopefully within the next couple hours or so."

"We'll believe it when we see it," he said Saturday night.

Temple gymnastics coach Umme Salim-Beasley said the Owls' bus, which left Philadelphia for a meet at about 2 p.m. Friday, is also stuck on the turnpike about 80 miles from Pittsburgh.

Ferry told SportsCenter on Saturday morning that the Dukes' bus came to a stop Friday night at about 9:15 p.m. ET.

"It's been a heck of an experience," he said. "We were making good time, kept track of the storm and we're doing well. Then about 9:15 last night, it was a dead stop, and we haven't moved since."

The National Guard was called out to provide food and water as well as chains and shovels, and emergency workers on all-terrain vehicles checked on stranded motorists. Officials closed a 90-mile stretch of the roadway to allow maintenance workers to focus on those who were stuck.

Ferry told College GameDay that his assistants "trudged through all this snow and basically hitchhiked a ride with some security people" to bring back food after the team's supply ran out. 

The AccuWeather forecast for Somerset called for more snow, heavy at times, into Saturday evening, with a total accumulation from Friday evening reaching upward of 2 feet. Blizzard warnings remained in effect Saturday for eastern and coastal portions of the mid-Atlantic, from mountain areas in Virginia to Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City and Long Island, New York.

Ferry said earlier Saturday morning that the team had tracked the storm from the outset and was prepared, adding that his players were in good spirits, passing the time with jokes and watching movies.

"We're just bunkered down," Ferry said. "We've got a good group of guys, and we've all just kind of hung out and had a good time with each other, watched a movie, guys were goofing and laughing and on their phones. Hours turned into hours and hours and hours."

"The bathroom is not that bad. It could be worse,'' said Dave Saba, a team spokesman. "It's not what you would expect from 31 men on a bus. We try to keep it clean."

Salim-Beasley said her team was also watching movies and that their provisions are holding out as they usually travel with a large amount of snacks, "so those came in handy." She said her team's training has made spending hours on a cramped bus more bearable than it might be for others.

"We are a gymnastics team," Salim-Beasley said. "So we can get into positions that most people won't be able to get into."

The team also tweeted out photos of members passing the time as they reached the 24-hour mark aboard the bus.

Pockets of motorists were stuck in the westbound lanes of the turnpike south of Pittsburgh, Turnpike spokesman Carl DeFebo told The Associated Press on Saturday. Some of those pockets stretch 2 or 3 miles.

Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement the backup was caused when trucks failed to climb hills. First responders are driving ATVs to reach the stranded motorists, Wolf said. 

"The safety of Pennsylvanians is my top priority, as many areas across Pennsylvania have been hit hard by this storm, which features heavy snow falling at a fast rate," Wolf said. "First responders from multiple state, county and local agencies are working together to address issues and ensure people are safe."

The Dukes' Twitter account has been posting periodic updates and says the team is "safe on warm bus" and "hoping others out here [on the turnpike] are as fortunate."

"We want to make sure everyone gets out of this safely, not just us," Ferry told College GameDay. 

A similar incident happened in 2014 when the Niagara women's basketball team was stranded on the New York State Thruway for nearly 30 hours after a huge storm dumped 4 feet of snow around Buffalo.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.