Hundreds of passengers found themselves stranded overnight on Chicago-bound Amtrak trains as a major winter storm plunged much of the American Midwest into dangerously cold subzero temperatures.
Three Amtrak trains containing approximately 500 passengers were stopped about 80 miles west of Chicago, in Mendota, Illinois, due to severe snow and ice buildup on the tracks. The trains were halted between 3:15 and 4:15 p.m on Monday and remained stuck for the rest of the day, unable to move even through Tuesday morning.
Around 6 a.m. Tuesday, Amtrak officials began transferring passengers onto charter buses for the remainder of the trip. The first set of passengers has already arrived in Chicago, while others are expected to reach the city by the afternoon.
“We've completed unloading the first train," Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said to ABC News early Tuesday morning. "We're now moving to unload the second. And all those passengers from those trains who spent the night overnight in Bureau County will be on chartered buses coming here to Chicago this morning."
Unfortunately for some passengers, the conditions aboard the trains weren’t exactly ideal. While some passengers told local ABC 7 the heat was on and food was served, others told Good Morning America a different story.
"The conditions is cold, we're wearing coats,” said Laurette Mosley, who was stuck onboard one of the trains for 14 hours. “And my husband is a diabetic. He hasn't had any food all day. The bathrooms are flooded. The sinks are full with water and the toilets are flooded.”
While Amtrak officials sort out train delays, the East Coast and the American South are bracing for the arrival of the powerful “polar vortex” that’s wreaked havoc on the Midwest. Wind chill warnings have been issued for states as far down as Florida, while single-digit highs are expected in Alabama and Georgia.
In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo recently declared a state of emergency for the western part of the state, where up to 36 inches of snow could fall and wind chills could plunge to 40 degrees below zero.
According to the Associated Press, about 187 million Americans will have faced the effects of the polar vortex by the time it runs its course.
As with any storm involving ice and heavy snowfall, electrical outages are a major concern. In Indiana, more than 30,000 customers remain without electricity due to downed power lines, while New York has lined up close to 4,000 officials to help respond to any power outages that may occur.
Meanwhile, even countries across the Atlantic are feeling the polar vortex’s wrath. In Britain, a surge of powerful winds and swelling ocean waves were described by the Associated Press as “loosely connected to the weather system that caused the U.S winter storm.”
By Wednesday, though, weather forecasters expect temperatures to rise steadily in the Midwest, with temperatures reaching above-freezing levels by the end of the week.