Hundreds of Passengers Rescued After Night on Frozen Amtrak Trains

Ice and snow left 500 passengers stranded overnight 90 miles from Chicago.

ByABC News
January 7, 2014, 6:48 AM

Jan 7, 2014— -- Hundreds of Amtrak passengers were rescued today after spending a bone-chilling cold night stranded on board three Amtrak trains that were crippled by snow and ice outside of Chicago.

More than 500 passengers who were affected by the delay are expected to arrive in Chicago this afternoon, likely on charter buses nearly 20 hours after the got stuck, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari told ABC News.

The trains were halted late Monday near Mendota, about 90 miles west of Chicago. The passengers were aboard the Southwest Chief from Los Angeles, the Illinois Zephyr from Quincy, Ill., and the California Zephyr from the San Francisco Bay area, Magliari said.

The trains ground to a halt at 4:15 p.m. ET Monday after they hit a 12-foot snow drift that paralyzed the engines, passenger Bryan Plummer told ABC News today by cellphone.

Frigid 'Polar Vortex' Cripples US for Second Straight Day

Laurette Mosley of California, who said she was stuck on one of the trains, told ABC News she was en route to Chicago to attend her mother's funeral.

"The conditions is cold, we're wearing coats. And my husband is a diabetic. He hasn't had any food all day," Mosley told ABC News by cellphone. "The bathrooms are flooded. The sinks are full with water and the toilets are flooded."

Amtrak spokesman Craig Schultz said this morning the passengers were being taken care of on the trains as they awaited rescue.

"We do have some folks that are sheltering in place out there on the train. They are being well taken care of. There are supplies, there's food, there's power on the train," Schultz told ABC News.

Plummer said Amtrak gave passengers dinner but no snacks when they were stranded.

"I inquired about breakfast service and they stated that at this time there was none planned. When the sheriff's officer that was on board here, when he left around 3 a.m. this morning, he stated that the Red Cross was involved and was trying to get us some meals," he said.

With the extreme cold also bearing down on the Northeast, Amtrak said trains on the Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston and the Empire Line between New York City and Albany would be operating on modified schedules.

Air travel was also crippled by the subzero temperatures. According to Flight Aware, at least 2,395 flights were cancelled within, into and out of the United States.

The heaviest delays were at the airports in Chicago and Detroit, according to Flight Aware, where temperatures dipped below zero.

At Toronto Pearson, Canada's largest airport, a ground stop was lifted this morning, hours after it was implemented due to frozen equipment and safety issues, according to the airport's Twitter account.

ABC News' Caitlin Fallon, Rebecca Lee and ABC News Radio contributed to this report.