CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - 173 crashes and 108 people in ditches: it was a long night for some drivers along the Indiana border.
About 50 of those got stuck in two-to-three foot snow drifts on a stretch of road between Illinois and Indiana. Some were stranded for 20 hours, before plows finally came to dig them out Thursday morning.
Northwest Indiana got socked with between 12 and 15 inches of snow during rush hour. It made route 17 in Grant Park, Illinois near Kankakee impassable.
FOX 32's Dane Placko talked to one driver who compares the experience to Alcatraz.
"This is it. I guess there's worse prisons to be in,” said Joe Rodenbucher.
Rodenbucher's four-wheel jail was his Chevy Impala. It happened when a pair of snow plows in front of him got stuck.
"I was trapped. I was out in the middle of nowhere. You couldn't go forward and you couldn't go back. because as soon as they stopped, people behind us stopped and it just drifted immediately,” Rodenbucher.
In all, some 50 cars and trucks got caught on the open stretch of road, instantly creating a small community of snowbound survivors.
"Worked on my iPad. We killed time. Walked around. We talked to each other, the other cars that were parked there off and on. Stayed warm,” Rodenbacher said.
"In the middle of the night I ran out of fuel. So...started getting chilly,” said trucker Rick Hammond.
Hammond’s truck jackknifed and was blown off the road by 50 mile an hour gusts. He sat here for 20 hours before plows were able to break through and clear the road, and a tow truck finally pulled his rig out of the ditch.
"Played games on my phone. Talked to my wife. She was worried. My daughter was worried. You know how that goes at home. My son didn't care... but the girls were upset and the dog was upset,” Hammond said.
Not everyone stuck it out overnight. State troopers were able to reach the stranded motorists using snowmobiles.
“Most of the truck drivers stayed with their vehicles all night long. We did set up a warming shelter to take people in passenger cars out. Some decided to stay,” said Lt. Jason LoCoco of ISP.
"This was pretty bad. I've seen a lot of bad but this ranks up there,” said trucker Everett Clark.
By noon, most of the stranded drivers were finally able to move on. Rodenbucher headed home to St. John, desperately needing a break.
RODENBUCHER: "People would say I sat for 15 hours. I should be well rested."
FOX 32: "I'll bet you don't want to see the inside of your car anytime soon."
RODENBUCHER: "No, I'll take a day off of it."