Motorists find havens from the storm

Dangerous driving conditions force drivers to seek refuge at truck stops, hotels

Dangerous driving conditions force drivers to seek refuge at truck stops, hotels

February 17, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

Tractor-trailer driver Harvey Hodges was hauling a load of roofing materials along Interstate 81 in Washington County at about 3 a.m. Sunday when he decided he had enough.

Hodges said he would be driving along and suddenly see a cloud of white snow billowing up in front of him.

He would realize later it was a snow plow.

What would normally be an easily recognizable vehicle on the highway could hardly be seen because there was so much snow blowing around it, Hodges said.


Hodges decided it was time to get off the interstate and he pulled his rig into the Pilot Travel Center on Greencastle Pike.

"I've been trucking for 30 years and this is about the worst blizzard I've been in. It's nearly a white-out. It's really dangerous," Hodges said.

Hodges waited out the storm by watching television at the local truck stop Sunday afternoon.

Hodges was hauling a load of rolled plastic from Joplin, Mo., to a roofing firm in Frederick, Md. Hodges said he was not going to deliver the load until he talked to the Frederick firm because he did not know if he could get into the plant once he arrived there.

The Pilot Travel Center was filled with truckers who also had hung up plans to travel, he said.

Some of the truckers were hauling hazardous materials and did not want to carry the loads through the snowy weather because that would be "doubly dangerous," Hodges said.

The motel at the Travel Centers of America truck stop off the I-81 exit at Greencastle, Pa., was full, mostly with truckers, said Mary Wertner, assistant manager of a store there.

"They're not moving. Where are they going to go?" said Wertner.

A woman who answered the phone at the Panhandle Travel Center along I-81 in Spring Mills, W.Va., said many truckers were waiting out the storm there.

While truckers were pulling off the road, some motorists were braving the conditions.

There were a lot of motorists stopping at the Pilot Travel Center on their way to destinations, said shift supervisor Tracy Cole.

"A lot of people were going to Pittsburgh, for some reason. I don't know what was going on in Pittsburgh," Cole said.

While the parking lot at the Little Sandy Truck Stop in Hancock is normally full of trucks on Sunday, there were few of them Sunday, said employee Tonia Stotler. Stotler said many truckers must have pulled off at other areas before reaching the stop there, which is off exit 3 along Interstate 70.

Business was booming at the Holiday Inn Express near the Valley Mall, but it wasn't truckers.

Most of the guests were skiers on hand to hit the slopes at nearby Whitetail Ski Resort.

"And I think they're really happy about this," said a clerk who watched groups of skiers come and go Sunday afternoon.

"They're all smiling when they come in and they go straight to the hot pool," the clerk said.

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