W. MI buses stranded in PA for 26 hours

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NEW BALTIMORE, PA. (WOOD) — Two charter buses full of teens and Catholic youth leaders from West Michigan were stranded for some 26 hours on the Pennsylvania Turnpike as a massive winter storm slammed the East Coast.

The buses, filled with local students and leaders from the Diocese of Grand Rapids, came to a standstill on I-76 a few miles east of New Baltimore around 10:30 p.m. Friday. They didn’t start moving again until shortly after 1 a.m. Sunday. The group stopped at a hotel around 2 a.m., where they rested before continuing their journey home.

They arrived back in Grand Rapids around 10:45 p.m. Sunday.

A bus full of West Michigan teens and youth leaders arrives back in Grand Rapids. (Jan. 24, 2016)
A bus arrives home.

Jacqui Babcock’s daughter was on one of the buses.

“Everybody was worried,” Babcock said Sunday night as she awaited her daughter’s arriva.. “You know, it’s your child. I just can’t wait to see her and wrap my arms around her.”

The group was on its way back from Washington D.C. after visiting the area for the March for Life rally. They even left D.C. early to try to avoid getting trapped in the storm — but no such luck. The Associated Press reported the massive backup developed after snow reaching 35 inches prevented semi-trucks from climbing through the mountains.

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The bus stranded on the turnpike.

Mark Mann, director of Family, Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids, is traveling with the group. He told 24 Hour News 8 over the phone early Saturday afternoon that everyone was safe, healthy and in good spirits.

“People are anxious. We’re anxious to get home,” Mann said. “Everyone is just keeping in good spirits, praying for the safety of all travelers and especially for the [emergency] crews.”

After sleeping on the buses Friday night, he said students went out in the snow Saturday, checking on people trapped in cars to make sure they were warm and had food and drink. Mann also said emergency crews were canvassing the turnpike to do the same.

He said the group watched movies and played games to pass the time. He asked for prayers for safe travels back home.

“Sooner or later they’re gonna get this cleared and we’ll move forward,” Mann said.

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