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Along coast, storm's stranded tell their stories

The winter storm that has been slogging up the East Coast for three days is leaving some travelers in desperate straits.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The winter storm that has been slogging up the East Coast for three days is leaving some travelers in desperate straits.

Some are stranded in airports with food supplies, not just flights, running low. Others are stuck a little more happily with old friends. But nothing has gone as planned, it seems.

Here are some stories from the storm.


Meghan Johnson, of Roanoke, Va., is stuck in New York City with her epilepsy medication running low and her stress level running high.

Some medicine she can get from a drug store in a pinch — but one of them she needs to get from Canada because it's not approved in the U.S.

Johnson, a 28-year-old disability analyst who was supposed to get back home Sunday, says she's been up late worrying about her shifting travel plans and how the medication she needs is back in Virginia — so she's gulping Sumatra blend to stay awake during the day.

She fears the combination will bring on a seizure: "It's kind of like a freight train. You know it's coming, but who knows when?"

Johnson, who's staying with the friend in Brooklyn Heights she was visiting for the holiday weekend, doesn't think she can get home until Thursday.

She's looking on the bright side: The delay has made for a longer visit; a chance to watch movies, read books and throw snowballs; and watch as a few brave drivers slide haplessly in the street.

But she knows that when she gets home, there's going to be a mountain of work waiting for her — and she'll probably be stuck in the office next weekend getting caught up.


After beating the New Jersey Devils 4-1 in Newark, N.J., the Toronto Maple Leafs boarded their bus for the 20-minute ride to their hotel. They arrived five hours later, at 3 a.m.

Center Tyler Bozak told his Twitter followers in one middle-of-the-night dispatch: "Roads closed in new jersey stuck on the bussss. Brutaallll!!"

Dave Poulin, team vice president of hockey operations, said the bus got stuck when state police closed the highway about two miles from the Leafs' destination.

The team was little worse for the wear.

"You're on a great big warm bus that's absolutely full with 200 gallons of gas," he said. Other vehicles, he said, slid into the ditch or didn't have enough fuel to keep the heat on through the night.

The next concern, though, was when Newark's airport would open so the team's plane could head back to Toronto, where a game is scheduled for Tuesday.


Kyle Szatkowski got stuck in a snow bank as he was driving and had to call a plow — ironic, since he was driving one.

He caught some sleep in his truck, which got stuck at the intersection of Main Street and 3rd Avenue in Asbury Park., N.J., around 1 a.m.

"I kept waiting for plows to come by, and none were coming," Szatkowski said. "It's been a complete nightmare."

His adventure came as he driving from Long Branch to help dig out two other plows stuck in a parking lot. After getting stuck for two hours near Allenhurst, he managed to get free, only to get stuck again in Asbury Park, where cars were strewn along the street with chilled drivers trying to dig out.

"I've helped so many people, my jeans are soaked," he said. "It's nuts."

He kept the motor running and heat on through the night to stay warm. By the time the city was coming to life Monday morning, he was out of diesel fuel. Hours later, he was still looking for some and his plow was still stranded.


The stress, the sniping, the language barriers escalated at the Newark airport as Frank Mann and Jackie Douglas strove to get to Greece for a vacation with Mann's 9-year-old son, Stephen.

"People were yelling at each other, yelling at employees," said Frank Mann, 53. "One day you're celebrating Christmas and everyone's happy, and the next it's like this."

They arrived on a flight from Houston on Sunday afternoon, as the blizzard was intensifying. The flight to Athens was scratched.

At the terminal, they discovered that shuttle buses, taxis and the airport monorail had stopped running — so there was no way to get to a hotel.

Tensions were high as everyone else at the airport found themselves in the same boat.

But soon, strangers began swapping stories. An airline employee handed out blankets. The hum of empty baggage carousels became white noise for people trying to sleep. Pigeons bathing in puddles provided entertainment.

The ruined trip to Greece had turned into a camping trip at the airport.

And Stephen found solace in a book he was reading on a Kindle, the story of another youngster stranded far from home by a storm — L. Frank Baum's "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz."


Shafqat Hayatin hoped to cash in on the bad weather Sunday evening by ferrying stranded New Yorkers in his cab. He wound up stranded himself, with his cab doubling as his bedroom for about eight hours.

Hayat's hopes for a big night ended when he turned onto Manhattan's 33rd Street, which hadn't been plowed. He called five or six towing companies but, with much of the rest of New York in the same boat, got no answer.

"The street was so bad, I got stuck in here," Hayatin said Monday morning as he woke up in his cab, still stalled on the island's West Side. "I had enough gas to leave my car on, so I've been sleeping in the heat."

He said his other option was to leave the car and go home — but he didn't want to abandon the vehicle in the middle of a street.

Hayatin said he has driven a cab since 1988.

"I've seen a lot of snow before," he said, "but on the roads, I've never seen so many cars stuck in 22 years."

He was able to drive off a little after 8 a.m.


Jason Cochran, a travel writer and consumer reporter who lives in Manhattan, figured his flight to London for work would be canceled.

But he also knew that if he didn't get to Kennedy Airport in time, he would probably face fees for trying to change his tickets.

So he arrived at the airport around 4 p.m. — the start of a grueling journey that didn't cover much distance, as plans changed by the hour.

The originally scheduled flight boarded, and it seemed it would fly before the worst weather moved into New York City.

"For a moment we thought we were the luckiest people in New York City," he said.

It didn't last. The flight didn't take off. The hotel rooms promised by the airline didn't materialize. He received vouchers for meals, but hardly any food was left in the terminal.

By Monday morning, his best hope was a flight scheduled to leave in the evening. He longed for home in the meantime. "I never thought I would be stuck at the airport when I live 10 miles away," he said.

Not that getting home for a few hours was entirely impossible. He found a cab willing to take him there — for $100.

Cochran declined.


Ken and Frances Borden found themselves in Cleveland on Monday when they really wanted to be home in New York after a trip full of unwanted adventure.

Ken, 63, and Frances, 70, both private school teachers who live in Amenia, N.Y., spent a week in Ecuador, where they were robbed and they had to make a long side trip to replace Ken's passport.

They were able to continue their journey only after a stranger at the Quito airport loaned them $200. Then their flight back to Newark was diverted to Cleveland.

Airline officials said they could fly back to Newark — but not until Friday. So on Monday, the weary travelers waited in line at a Greyhound bus station, preparing for an eight-hour ride to New York.

"It's been an adventure," Frances Borden said. "But we just want to get home."

Mulvihill reported from Haddonfield, N.J. Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Beth DeFalco in Asbury Park, N.J.; Christopher Hawley, in Newark, N.J., David Sharp in Portland, Maine; Russell Contreras in Cleveland; and David Porter and Deepti Hajela in New York.