Stranded Sarnia drivers finding shelter

Stranded motorists caught in extreme weather near Sarnia, Ont., have been making their way to safety and warmth.
An unidentified truck driver walks alongside a long row of stranded vehicles on London Line, East of Sarnia, Ont., on Tuesday. ((Glenn Ogilvie/Canadian Press))
Stranded motorists caught in extreme weather near Sarnia, Ont., have been making their way to safety and warmth.

By 3 p.m. Tuesday, 237 had been rescued from stranded vehicles, the Ontario Provincial Police said. That figure included 66 people extracted by military helicopters.

"There are a lot of tired people here and they’re still bringing them in from the 402 right now by snowmobile," said stranded driver Dan Michaelis, who found shelter at a Tim Hortons.

Michaelis was unprepared to spend a night in his car on Monday.

"I ran out of gas, and couldn’t feel my feet or my fingertips. That is when I started to panic a little bit," he said.

Michaelis couldn't find another vehicle to take shelter in, so he called his family, who arranged for the OPP to pick him up in a snowmobile.

"I had no hat, no gloves. It was the coldest ride I've ever had," said Michaelis.

Since his chilly ride, Michaelis has been taking refuge at a Tim Hortons, and he didn't anticipate being able to leave any time soon.
People dropped off supplies at a Strathroy warming centre Tuesday. ((Submitted by Cheryl Krawchuk ))

Warming stations

Provincial police set up four warming stations in Warwick, Wyoming, Forest and Watford, staffed by community volunteers.

Sarnia declared a state of emergency Tuesday morning, setting in motion a stream of local volunteers to help with the rescue efforts.

Community members brought blankets, pillows and food to a church in Strathroy converted to a warming centre.

Rescue efforts

OPP said Tuesday afternoon that rescue efforts were proceeding slowly, as a snowplow towing a school bus edged forward along snow-covered roads to pick up stranded travellers.

Police would not estimate on how long it would take to reach all the stranded drivers, or how long it would take to reopen the roads.

The priority was to get people to safety, then clear away the cars, and then start clearing snow off the roads, said OPP Const. Dennis Harwood.

"It's serious now. We want those people out of there," he said.