Blizzard ‘Jonas’ strands area travelers on turnpike

January 28, 2016

A JAG motor coach was stranded for more than 28 hours in PA during Blizzard Jonas.

A JAG motor coach was stranded for more than 28 hours in PA during Blizzard Jonas.

By Pat Maurer
Correspondent

It may not have hit Michigan as bad as the eastern states, but “Winter Storm Jonas” stranded a local motorcoach with 47 passengers, adults senior and youngsters from Michigan on the Pennsylvania Turnpike last Friday evening.

Darren Haines, of Gladwin, one of the drivers for the tour bus, said, “We came to a stop around seven to eight miles west of Bedford, PA around 10:30 p.m. in three to four inches of snow when ‘something’ apparently happened several miles in front of us that stopped traffic. I don’t exactly know what happened but I think it may have been caused by an accident involving semi-trucks.”

JAG Motorcoach, based in Gladwin, offers tours and charter trips year-round all over the country.
Haines and the other driver Rick Madol of Harrison were ferrying a group back to Michigan with a last passenger drop scheduled in Gaylord. The group had attended a “Right To Life” march in Washington DC earlier that day.

“There was about three to four inches of snow in Washington, no problem for us,” Haines said, “but traffic was going pretty slow. We had just stopped for fuel and our passengers had eaten. From there it was only about five or ten miles before we were slowed to a complete stop. It was a good thing we had a chance to fuel up and eat because we were stuck in that spot for the next 28 hours before traffic began moving again.”

Hundreds of semis, vans and other tour buses lined up for miles.
“Our passengers weren’t in any danger and we kept the bus warm, Haines said. “Our main concern was getting food and water for our passengers the next day.”

“At six the next morning, a fire truck came through and told us it would be a couple hours. When it 1-29-16 Jag Motorcoach 2IMG_20160123_112002572became much longer, a passenger, Ron Bragg and his son  and some others left the bus to walk  about a mile and half in the snow to a farm, where they were able to get a ride to a nearby Walmart store and stock up on food and water, which they brought back to the bus,” Haines said.

“We weren’t able to get moving again until around 2:30 a.m. Sunday morning, Haines said. “By the time we were able to move again the snow was probably two feet deep.”

“I felt bad for the other cars around us. They didn’t have enough fuel to keep their vehicles running constantly so they had to run their engines just long enough to get warm and then shut them off again,” he added.

Haines continued, “By Saturday morning the National Guard was there and plowed a way along the side of the road, bringing stranded motorists needed fuel, food and water. They brought us pizza and cookies to help us make it through the day.” The Guardsmen also helped to dig vehicles out so they could get moving again when the road was opened.

“After we got going again and were finally back into Michigan, another driver, my wife Mechelle, met us and took over the driving. The bus dropped off the last passengers in Gaylord around 6 p.m. Sunday evening. They even had a police escort for the last seven miles of the trip,” he said.

“It was quite an adventure,” Haines added, “but everything turned out fine. The passengers were sure happy to get home after being on that bus for over 50 hours.”

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