About 500 passengers aboard three Amtrak trains were stranded overnight in a remote part of northern Illinois because of blowing and drifting snow, Amtrak officials said today.
The trains were halted late Monday near Mendota, about 80 miles west of Chicago. The passengers were aboard the Southwest Chief from Los Angeles, the Illinois Zephyr from Quincy, Ill., and the California Zephyr from the San Francisco Bay area, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari told The Associated Press.
The trains became stuck around 4:15 p.m. ET Monday after they hit a 12-foot snow drift that paralyzed the engines, passenger Bryan Plummer told ABC News today by cellphone.
Amtrak officials say they are working to get the passengers off the trains safely.
"We've completed unloading the first train," spokesman Magliari told ABC News this morning. "We're now moving to unload the second. And all those passengers from those trains who spent the night overnight in Bureau County will be on chartered buses coming here to Chicago this morning."
Laurette Mosley of California says she has been stuck for more than 14 hours on one of the trains. Mosley was en route to Chicago to attend her mother's funeral.
"The conditions is cold, we're wearing coats. And my husband is a diabetic. He hasn't had any food all day," Mosley told ABC News by cellphone. "The bathrooms are flooded. The sinks are full with water and the toilets are flooded."
Amtrak spokesman Craig Schultz said the trains were headed for Chicago.
"We do have some folks that are sheltering in place out there on the train. They are being well taken care of. There are supplies, there's food, there's power on the train," Schultz told ABC News today.
Passenger Plummer said Amtrak gave them dinner but no snacks while he has been stranded.
"I inquired about breakfast service and they stated that at this time there was none planned. When the sheriff's officer that was on board here, when he left around 3 a.m. this morning, he stated that the Red Cross was involved and was trying to get us some meals," he said.
Spokesman Schultz says snow and ice on the tracks are the main concerns and there's no word on when they will move.
"We need to coordinate that really with the host railroads, over that territory we coordinate with freight railroads and they really give us the go ahead to proceed when it is safe," Schultz said.
ABC News' Caitlin Fallon and ABC News Radio contributed to this report.
- Natural Phenomena
- California Zephyr