New Yorkers tell of hours stranded on snowy roads
As the snow came rushing down faster than he'd foreseen, he got stuck six or seven times on the expressway and on other roads. Drivers began helping each other shovel and push, he said, but to no avail. He finally gave up and spent the night in his car on a local thoroughfare, only about two miles from his home.
"I could run my car and keep the heat on and listen to the radio a little bit," he said.
He walked home around at 8 a.m., leaving his car.
Late-shifters including Wayne Jingo had little choice but to risk it if they wanted to get home. By early afternoon, he'd been stuck in his pickup truck alongside the Long Island Expressway for nearly 12 hours.
He'd left his job around midnight as a postal worker at Kennedy Airport and headed home to Medford, about 50 miles east. He was at an exit in Ronkonkoma — almost home — around 1:45 a.m. when another driver came barreling at him westbound, the wrong way, he said. Jingo swerved to avoid the oncoming car, missed the exit and ended up stuck on the highway's grass shoulder.
He rocked the truck back and forth to try to free it, but it only sank down deeper into the snow and shredded one of his tires. He called 911. A police officer came by at 9:30 a.m. and said he would send a tow truck.
At 1 p.m. Saturday, Jingo was still waiting.
"I would have been fine if I didn't have to swerve," he said.
In Middle Island, a Wal-Mart remained unofficially open long past midnight to accommodate more than two dozen motorists who were stranded on nearby roads.
"We're here to mind the store, but we can't let people freeze out there," manager Jerry Greek told Newsday.
Officials weren't aware of any deaths among the stranded drivers, Cuomo said. Suffolk County police said no serious injuries had been reported among stuck motorists, but officers were still systematically checking stranded vehicles late Saturday afternoon.
Even cars that weren't stuck found the going on the expressway agonizingly slow — especially for a 21-year-old mother-to-be who was trying to get to a hospital to deliver her baby Saturday morning. Her own mom was driving her, as the infant's father was snowbound elsewhere.
Suffolk County Police Officer Kevin Wustenhoff went to help and decided to drive the woman 15 miles to the hospital in his police SUV, rather than waiting for an ambulance.
As a father of three, "I was able to just kind of walk her through it — breathing and just keeping her calm," he recalled later.
Delivery appeared imminent when they arrived, but the baby hadn't yet been born when Wustenhoff checked in late Saturday night.
While the expressway eventually opened Saturday, about 30 miles of the highway was to be closed again Sunday for snow removal.
Susan Cassara left her job at a Middle Island day care center around 6:30 p.m. Friday, after driving some of the children home because their parents couldn't get there to pick them up.
She got stuck on one road until about 2:30 a.m. Then a plow helped her get out — but she got stuck again, she said. Finally, an Army National Guardsman got to her on a snowmobile after 4 a.m.
"It was so cool. Strapped on, held on and came all the way here" to the makeshift shelter at the Brookhaven Town Hall, she said. "Something for my bucket list."
Associated Press writers Mary Esch in Albany, N.Y.; Michael Melia in Hartford, Conn., and Jennifer Peltz and AP radio correspondent Julie Walker in New York contributed to this report.
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