Patrick and Sue Ellen Kilgallon knew the storm was coming. They tried to get out of northern Kentucky on Wednesday night. Instead, they got stuck in the snow on Interstate 65.
The Florida couple and their two dogs were still there Thursday morning, more than 14 hours later, unable to get back to the Sunshine State.
“We’re just sitting here praying, hoping to get out,” Patrick Kilgallon told CNN on Thursday.
They were among hundreds of motorists who had been stranded on I-65 near Elizabethtown, Kentucky, and on Interstate 24 near Paducah after a storm so intense that road crews just couldn’t keep up.
Gov. Steve Beshear said Thursday afternoon that some traffic had begun to inch along.
“We have finally cleared some emergency lanes on the sides of the roads, and the traffic now northbound on I-65 is beginning to move slowly and to clear out,” he told CNN. “It will take several hours to clear it out, because it’s backed up so much. But it is moving again, thank goodness.”
Video shot from news helicopters above the interstate showed that by 4 p.m., cars and many tractor-trailers were rolling along, once they cleared a hill near Elizabethtown.
But in some places, the vehicles that still had gas had to maneuver around those that didn’t.
The Kentucky National Guard was helping motorists, taking some to nearby warming centers and returning others to their cars where the highways were passable, Lt. Col. Kirk Hilbrecht told CNN.
Beshear told CNN that officials had been prepared.
“We did everything we could in advance,” he said.
There were no reports of any deaths or major injuries, the governor said.
A morning weather report indicated that over a 15-hour span, 21 inches of snow had fallen on Elizabethtown, about 50 miles south of Louisville. Other parts of Kentucky, along with parts of Ohio to the north and Tennessee to the south, had more than a foot of snow.
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet published a hotline number for motorists stranded on the highway.
The Kilgallons gassed up Wednesday night and tried to beat the storm as they traveled south for Florida.
But 25 miles from Louisville, they hit “nothing but dead stop” on I-65.
Kilgallon has a scanner in the car and said she has heard that a tractor-trailer collided with several cars, and while the truck was moved, there were not enough tow trucks to move the other vehicles involved in the accident.
The Kilgallons had a few snacks left and are rationing the water they have left, Patrick Kilgallon said Thursday afternoon. They ran the engine on their new Jeep all night to keep warm and prevent the ice from encrusting the car too deeply, he said.
Asked whether she was upset with Kentucky officials, Sue Ellen Kilgallon said no.
“I think they’re doing the best they can,” she said. “I’d cry if it weren’t so amusing.”