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A college basketball team was rescued early Wednesday after their bus became stuck in heavy snow for 26 hours in western New York. The 29 Niagara University Purple Eagles players, coaches and family members were forced to ration food and water after their vehicle ground to a halt on the New York State Thruway. Trapped by the region's historic snowfall about 50 miles from their Buffalo campus, they were rescued at around 4 a.m. ET after a crew of five cleared a path using two heavy-duty snowplows.
"It was an amazing feeling," director of women's basketball Rene Polka told NBC News via telephone after their rescue. "It was dark when we first became trapped early Tuesday, but when the sun came up we saw how bad it was. Then it literally did not stop snowing all day so we thought we might have been trapped for a lot longer."
The team was returning from a defeat to the University of Pittsburgh's Pitt Panthers. "We thought we would be able to clear the weather, but in the early hours of the morning on Tuesday we hit snow outside the Buffalo metro area and the bus just came to a standstill," said Polka, 23.
The bus was carrying snacks and bottles of water and the stockpile was boosted at around 10 p.m. Tuesday night when snowmobile crews managed to battle through the waist-high powder to bring much-needed supplies. Polka said she was subsequently admitted to hospital for checks because she ate and drank very little during the ordeal. Spirits were kept high by the team praying every hour. The bus' electricity supply kept their mobiles charged they were able to read a flood of online support around the Twitter hashtag #NUWBBstrandedonbus. "That really meant a lot to everyone," Polka said. "People were offering their support and it really brightened up their spirits. We cannot thank them enough."