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Drivers Left to Cool Their Heels While Snow Piled Up Near Buffalo

Crews worked around the clock to rescue hungry and cold drivers who got stuck in the snow near Buffalo.

Truck driver Sam Martin ran out of trail mix — and patience — on Tuesday evening. But as he sat in his pickup overnight, surrounded by 4 feet of snow, he only had to look out the window to see that others on the New York State Thruway were worse off.

"I'm lucky because trucks have bigger tanks, so I had heat," Martin, 49, told NBC News. "The guy in front of me abandoned his car because he was out of fuel."

Image: Sam Martin's truck was stranded on the Thruway for more than 30 hours.
Sam Martin's truck was stranded on the Thruway for more than 30 hours following a heavy snow storm.Courtesy Sam Martin

Martin, who hails from Silverton, Oregon, and was hauling RVs from Indiana to Massachusetts, was finally freed from what he called his "icy prison" on Wednesday around lunchtime — nearly 35 hours after he first got stuck.

He was among scores of drivers trapped in the brutal snowstorm near Buffalo, New York, where state troopers and emergency crews worked around the clock to reach the vehicles.

Penn State student Endjie Ulysses was one of 14 people stuck on a Greyhound bus on Interstate 90 for 34 hours before rescue Wednesday afternoon by a state trooper. "I'm just tired," she said. "I've only slept for about two or three hours."

David Chronister, 42, an adult student at the nearby Medaille College, whiled away the hours just past an exit on I-90 for a day and a half. He had been driving from Buffalo to the Erie County town of Hamburg.

He told NBC News that he spent "roughly 36 hours in the car with no food — just one bottle of water and a blanket." He periodically checked Twitter and read a book on his tablet to pass the time. Chronister was rescued by a state trooper Wednesday and was taken to a toll booth plaza.

Martin said that when he trundled down the highway well before dawn on Tuesday, the only warning signs he saw suggested the roads would not be impassable until 6 p.m.

He noticed the snow was coming down hard as he drove past an Angola, New York, rest stop, and when his GPS showed heavy traffic up ahead, he decided to get off at the next exit.

“But it was buried in snow and had not been plowed and I did not want to get stuck there, so I kept going forward and there were people in front of me, and it slowed down a little bit, and then it just stopped,” he said.

He had only a little water and some trail mix and was stunned that no "humanitarian aid" got to him.

"They’re bragging about the granola bars they were supplying, but they never brought any around to me,” he said. He recalled his incredulity while listening to a live press conference in which officials said anyone who got stuck had been offered one opportunity to get out. “Never happened,” he said.

In the first 24 hours, he said, he saw only two snowplows on the eastbound side of the highway. He said a few police officers came by on snowmobiles but did not stop to ask if he was OK.

"What a fiasco!" he said.

But there were bright spots. Olive Daley of Williamsville, New York, said her husband, Shawn Daley, may have made a friend for life because of his ordeal.

The plant worker was stranded on the Thruway soon after heading off to work at 4 a.m. Tuesday. He ran out of gas and his battery died — but he was given refuge by another motorist, Steven Ratcliff, who even shared his sandwich and juice with him.

The men were rescued around 11 a.m. Wednesday and were being taken to a community center, where Olive was headed to pick up both of them.

"It was scary," Olive said. "I couldn't sleep last night. I've been up all night."