Storm Strands Motorists, Workers At I-70 Truck Stop

Interstate 70, through central and eastern Missouri, was closed down for a while because of snow and ice. The closure stranded many motorists and workers along the highway. Host Michele Norris speaks to Terri Brackney and Greg Stratton, who work at the Travel Plaza Truck Stop in Warrenton, Mo., and have been stranded there since Monday.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Driving was so perilous on Interstate 70 through central and eastern Missouri that officials closed it down for a time. The road was impassible because of blowing snow, sheets of ice and stranded cars turned this way and that. The interstate reopened earlier this morning, but at midday, the state transportation department was advising motorists to travel only if necessary.

The closure meant some travelers had to find a safe spot to ride out the blizzard. For the workers at the Pilots Flying J truck stop in Warrenton, Missouri, that meant staying put. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The name of the truck stop is "Pilot Flying J Travel Centers."]

Terri Brackney and Greg Stratton have been stranded at work since Monday, along with a lot of motorists who had nowhere else to go. And Terri Brackney and Greg Stratton join us now. Are you still stuck at that truck stop?

Ms. TERRI BRACKNEY: Yes, we are. I think we're going to get out of here today, but we are still here.

NORRIS: How many hours have you logged since you checked in for work on Monday?

Ms. BRACKNEY: Oh, my goodness. I'm going to say probably 36 hours plus.

Mr. GREG STRATTON: Terri, I believe, got in here at 6 a.m. on Monday. I got here about two in the afternoon.

NORRIS: Well, do me a favor and help paint a picture for us. What was the scene like there at the Flying J when motorists started pouring in? It sounds like the parking lot was an absolute zoo.

Ms. BRACKNEY: It was. Snow was just coming down so hard and so fast that - and drifting so bad, it was just encasing the trucks and their trailers. And they just could not go anywhere.

NORRIS: Encasing the trucks? Trucks are pretty big.

Ms. BRACKNEY: Yeah. Well, it was pretty high. Greg, how high do you think it was on their...

Mr. STRATTON: I don't know. I had trucks coming in that were literally just sheets of ice pulling in. They had, you know, one-foot icicles hanging off of their mirrors, having to get out and just shovel the front of the doors just so people could get in from the snowdrifts blowing up against the doors. Truckers that were stranded, it was just an absolute mess.

NORRIS: You also have a convenience store there, right?

Ms. BRACKNEY: That's correct.

NORRIS: And what were people buying?

Mr. STRATTON: Everything. Everything. They were buying everything from additives for their fuel to, you know, TVs, so - they could have something to watch, you know, when they wanted to watch what they wanted to watch. So they're buying TVs and DVDs we have for sale for the truckers. You know, everything from coffee to soda to snacks to food. I mean, if it was in the store, people were picking it up. We've got flashlights and stuff. I mean...

Ms. BRACKNEY: A lot of flashlights.

Mr. STRATTON: A lot of these people weren't prepared for the fact that they were going to have to stop. A lot of these people thought they were going to drive right through it. And it just hit so hard that they had to stop. And some of the truckers actually came unprepared because everything that they expect they get on down the road.

NORRIS: Do you sell those little things that you use to deice a lock? I bet that was a hot item.

Ms. BRACKNEY: We sold every can we had in stock. Those were all hot commodities yesterday.

NORRIS: Did people stay in a pretty good mood through all this?

Ms. BRACKNEY: Absolutely. Absolutely. Truck drivers are very unique in situations like this. They're just - their moods are actually good. You know, they all understand it. They all accept it. They know they're stuck here until it's over. You know, they're here for the duration and they actually, I think, it's an enjoyable time. They have a good time. They all wanted to share their stories and their experience.

NORRIS: Now, the roads, as we said, are open. And, Greg, I understand that you have special duty. You're the traffic coordinator trying to get people back out on the road. How's that going?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. STRATTON: Well, actually, now we're finally got to where the trucks could come in and they can get out as well. I mean, last night, when I was walking the lot, I just did a quick count of how many trucks I saw. I saw about 186 truckers just in our back lot. Terri had told me we can fit 220 and we were full by the end of last night and had trucks lined up on the road. So getting all those people up and going and moving and out was quite a big task.

NORRIS: Sounds like a good night's sleep is ahead of you.

Mr. STRATTON: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BRACKNEY: We're both looking quite forward to that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NORRIS: Well, Terri Brackney and Greg Stratton, thanks so much for talking to us. All the best to you.

Mr. STRATTON: All right, thank you so much.

Ms. BRACKNEY: Thank you.

NORRIS: That's Terri Brackney and Greg Stratton. They both work at Pilots(ph) Flying J truck stop in Warrenton, Missouri.

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