Day 2 of the Abominable Vortex: 500 Amtrak passengers stranded overnight

posted at 8:41 am on January 7, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Before we get to the serious side of the weather, let’s check in with ABC for some comparisons that put our temperature in Minneapolis in perspective. Which place would you guess is warmer — the Twin Cities or Mars? Well, to ask the question is to answer it, no?

I say “perspective,” but that’s in dispute here in Minnesota, too. While I’ve been tweeting out updates of the weather here in the metro area (-13 this morning when I got up, -26 with wind chill), my neighbors in the northern end of the state keep reminding me that these temperatures are normal for winter in their area. They’re actually not all that abnormal for the metro area, either, although they are a bit unusual. This isn’t the first time in the 16+ years I’ve lived here that I’ve seen temperatures in the -20 range, but it is the first time I’ve seen that be national news. Or interglobal news, for that matter.

Of course, the reason it’s national news is because it’s not just Minnesota. Most of the coverage has been lighthearted even for those in the South and East, but for 500 Amtrak passengers outside of Chicago, it’s no joking matter:

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 Brian Plummer told ABC News today by cellphone.

This happened more because of the heavy snowfall than the dramatically low temperatures, but the cold made the crisis much more acute. More than 300 had to wait nine hours for evacuation:

On one train, about 300 passengers had to wait more than nine hours to reach their destination, CNN affiliate WXMI reported.

The train was stuck in Kalamazoo, Michigan, en route to Chicago. “It was kind of like purgatory,” a passenger told CNN affiliate WLS, adding that it was “not quite hellish because there was good company.”

If you planned to travel yesterday, you already know the impact of the storm on the system. It won’t get much better today, either:

Air traffic was once again snarled Monday, following a weekend of travel disruption across the U.S. More than 4,500 flights were canceled Monday and 13,780 delays, according to FlightAware.com.

More than 2,000 slights have already been canceled today and another 1,400 delayed, FlightAware.com report.

Here in the Twin Cities, it may warm up a little faster than we thought. The prediction from the weather service at the moment is for a high of two degrees above zero this afternoon, dipping back to -10 overnight. By the weekend, we’ll be at a balmy 35 degrees, basking in the relative warmth. That is, unless another blast of global-warming freezing comes along. Unfortunately, that means Congress will get back to work, too.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

At least here in Omaha, the frigid cold is moving east…

OmahaConservative on January 7, 2014 at 8:44 AM

Rush was having fun with the “vortex” yesterday at the beginning of his show.

Mord on January 7, 2014 at 8:50 AM

The funny thing is that out west here, even in the mountains, ca. 60 miles south of the Canadian border, it’s actually been seasonable to warm. So far this winter, there has only been a couple inches of snow to boot (this in a place where nobody blinks if the snowfall is under 6″). Definitely funny how not being in the Midwest makes all this reporting kind of unreal.

Katja on January 7, 2014 at 8:51 AM

Embrace the suck……

crosshugger on January 7, 2014 at 9:00 AM

Minus 13 where I’m at in Michigan. Car was slow to turnover, but it started. And took 20 minutes of warming the car up before the windshield even started to clear of frost. I don’t wear long johns, but this kind of cold has me thinking I need some.

NotCoach on January 7, 2014 at 9:02 AM

6 degrees sucks for the South.

Bmore on January 7, 2014 at 9:04 AM

Got to minus 15 here in Toledo. It did hit minus 14 a few years ago, so it’s not too terribly out of the ordinary. But hey, it’s a nice distraction from the fascization of America.

Dress in layers people.

rbj on January 7, 2014 at 9:04 AM

I’m freezing in SW Ohio.

Global warming?

BuckeyeSam on January 7, 2014 at 9:08 AM

It’s Winter time here in South Idaho…

Electrongod on January 7, 2014 at 9:10 AM

NotCoach on January 7, 2014 at 9:02 AM

Get yourself some longjohns…

OmahaConservative on January 7, 2014 at 9:13 AM

Whatever – just throw another ‘global warming’ log on the fire.

Pork-Chop on January 7, 2014 at 9:14 AM

BuckeyeSam on January 7, 2014 at 9:08 AM

Heh… hey, at least the sun is shining. :)

But yeah, -21F (with wind) for me and you (I suspect).

CPT. Charles on January 7, 2014 at 9:15 AM

Mother Earth Gia must be p*ssed off!!!!

canopfor on January 7, 2014 at 9:17 AM

From my area,..Nice and toasty:)

Sault Ste. Marie, ON
Tuesday 7:00 AM
Light snow
-19

canopfor on January 7, 2014 at 7:53 AM

canopfor on January 7, 2014 at 9:18 AM

Speaking of snow, er, ice, er,…

Passenger ship trapped in Antarctica
5m
Chinese state media says the country’s icebreaker has broken free from heavy sea ice in Antarctica after becoming trapped last week – @AP
read more on bigstory.ap.org

canopfor on January 7, 2014 at 9:19 AM

last week I had 2 days running -5 to -8 as the high temp here with one morning -26.
not common for this time of year, usually would see this in February, but not unprecedented either.
in early to mid 70′s used to be able to snowmobile about anywhere throughout the state in Dec, then in mid to late 80′s you couldn’t, now we are able to again.
wow. color me awestruck that stuff cycles.

dmacleo on January 7, 2014 at 9:20 AM

Here in the socialist utopia of NY, it was -5 this morning when I finally dragged myself out of my warm bed. It’s windy but not as bad as I expected. I’ve skied in single-digit cold and wind before, but I was also wearing half the clothes I had in my closet…all at once.

JetBoy on January 7, 2014 at 9:23 AM

wow. color me awestruck that stuff cycles.

dmacleo on January 7, 2014 at 9:20 AM

No! This cold is unprecedented, and it’s more evidence of Gorebal Warming you vile blasphemer!

NotCoach on January 7, 2014 at 9:23 AM

*********** Ice-Age Cometh ***************:)

SnowBall Earth,..or not!!

canopfor on January 7, 2014 at 9:24 AM

This will warm y’all up:

http://youtu.be/y2he3gF5uSM?t=45s

JetBoy on January 7, 2014 at 9:28 AM

You better get ready for another vortex, whatever they mean by that, it’s a cute name, tho. Our temps in NW MT were -10 yesterday but a little better today, just 10 at our house. Expecting snow starting Thurs thru Sunday. Bundle up the tykes.

Kissmygrits on January 7, 2014 at 9:31 AM

Here in NH, it’s currently 49 degrees colder than it was just 18 hours ago.

What am I doing wrong, Algore?

Del Dolemonte on January 7, 2014 at 9:33 AM

Cold here in western Washington. Got down to 25 degrees…

I spent twenty years in Chicago during some of the coldest weather they ever had. You could toss a cup of hot coffee in the air and it would crackle, freezing insantly. Had to keep the kitchen cabinets open to keep the pipes from freezing. No thank you.

HiJack on January 7, 2014 at 9:34 AM

instantly

HiJack on January 7, 2014 at 9:35 AM

Winter’s coming…

HiJack on January 7, 2014 at 9:36 AM

Or interglobal news, for that matter.

Nyuk nyuk nyuk……

ted c on January 7, 2014 at 9:41 AM

On one train, about 300 passengers had to wait more than nine hours to reach their destination, CNN affiliate WXMI reported.

The train was stuck in Kalamazoo, Michigan, en route to Chicago. “It was kind of like purgatory,”

these events were prophetically foretold in the hit movie, “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” with John Candy and Steve Martin.

ted c on January 7, 2014 at 9:43 AM

…my hinky dinky….is hiding!

KOOLAID2 on January 7, 2014 at 9:47 AM

My first winter in Iowa, I remember around Christmas (’84) we had a storm which in addition to dumping well over a foot of snow, had temps in the -20s, and windchill of -70. Iowa City residents attitudes were “Yeah, it’s cold. This bad doesn’t happen too often, but it happens. And?”

LibraryGryffon on January 7, 2014 at 9:53 AM

Minus 13 where I’m at in Michigan. Car was slow to turnover, but it started. And took 20 minutes of warming the car up before the windshield even started to clear of frost. I don’t wear long johns, but this kind of cold has me thinking I need some.

NotCoach on January 7, 2014 at 9:02 AM

They’re a good investment in cold like this…

changer1701 on January 7, 2014 at 10:02 AM

Our local weather guy pretty much goofed on the term “polar vortex”. He said it is nothing unusual – it’s there 365 days a year, has been around forever, and is just a term that has been hitting the media as if new.

I’m in the Dallas area and it’s definitely cold, but looking forward to 60s by the end if the week.

tru2tx on January 7, 2014 at 10:04 AM

“There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.” _Norwegian saying

itsacookbook on January 7, 2014 at 10:13 AM

No! This cold is unprecedented, and it’s more evidence of Gorebal Warming you vile blasphemer!

NotCoach on January 7, 2014 at 9:23 AM

heh heh I would apologize but…well…ain’t happening :)

Here in NH, it’s currently 49 degrees colder than it was just 18 hours ago.

What am I doing wrong, Algore?

Del Dolemonte on January 7, 2014 at 9:33 AM

pretty much same here in Maine

dmacleo on January 7, 2014 at 10:21 AM

This isn’t the first time in the 16+ years I’ve lived here that I’ve seen temperatures in the -20 range, but it is the first time I’ve seen that be national news. Or interglobal news, for that matter.

And, that is the real issue: the crisisization of everything in the news today.
“OMG, it’s the coldest temperatures in ___ years!”
“OMG, it’s the most snow in ___!”
“OMG, it’s the storm of the decade/century/millenium!”
“ZOMG, it’s COLD! In JANUARY! In the NORTH!”
“OMG, We’re all gonna diiiiiiiieeeeeeeeee!!!1!!1″
Please, people, get a hold of yourselves, and get over it. It’s the middle of friggin’ winter, fer cryin’ out loud. But, if you all do die, I call dibs on the Mercedes with the heated seats.

Get yourself some longjohns…

OmahaConservative on January 7, 2014 at 9:13 AM

Just make sure you don’t accidentally get flannel onesies instead. Look for the ones without feet.

GWB on January 7, 2014 at 10:31 AM

So far I haven’t found any evidence while reading the story, as to whether or not:

1) Locomotive(s) was off the track. Easy to do, when they strike a massive “drift” at speed.

2) The diesel engine (called the “prime mover” in railroad jargon) within the locomotive(s) continued running or not.
Did any of them run out of fuel? That’s key, because the locomotive provides ALL electrical power for “climate control”. Those rail cars would lose their heat rather quickly without power.

listens2glenn on January 7, 2014 at 10:32 AM

Vortex? These people always have to have a new label for everything. They’re as bad as the soap and snack food industry with their “new and improved”.

My only wish is that those liberal enclaves with their carbon paranoia and war against coal have their electricity and fossil fuels cut off if that’s the source of their heat. Let them warm up with their wind turbines and solar panels and then let us know how efficient and cheap it is.

Every nanny-stater should have to move to the front of the line to experience the regulations they insist on imposing on the rest of us who don’t want it.

iamsaved on January 7, 2014 at 10:54 AM

Vortex? These people always have to have a new label for everything. They’re as bad as the soap and snack food industry with their “new and improved”.

iamsaved on January 7, 2014 at 10:54 AM

The term “Polar Vortex” has actually been in use for decades.

1985 Polar Vortex over Maine

Del Dolemonte on January 7, 2014 at 12:03 PM

So far I haven’t found any evidence while reading the story, as to whether or not:

1) Locomotive(s) was off the track. Easy to do, when they strike a massive “drift” at speed.

2) The diesel engine (called the “prime mover” in railroad jargon) within the locomotive(s) continued running or not.

Did any of them run out of fuel? That’s key, because the locomotive provides ALL electrical power for “climate control”. Those rail cars would lose their heat rather quickly without power.

listens2glenn on January 7, 2014 at 10:32 AM

According to the Chicago Trib, there was no derailment, just getting stuck in the snow. The crew tried “rocking” the train out but failed. The second train that got stuck was a rescue train. Sounds just like Antarctica!

From the Trib:

This morning, Amtrak began moving passengers on two of the trains onto buses bound for Chicago. The third train was taken back to Princeton, where passengers were being served breakfast, Amtrak said. No injuries were reported.

“It’s a fairly remote area in Bureau County where the tracks go through something like a trench,” Magliari said. “The trench itself was full of snow and ice and we couldn’t just push though it.

“So it was safer to leave passengers on the train with full hotel systems, with light and heat and toilet systems — all overnight — rather than transfer people through the trench in the snow at minus 5 temperatures and transfer them to buses,” Magliari said.

Del Dolemonte on January 7, 2014 at 12:17 PM

It’s a good thing no airline passengers were “stuck in the air” because of drifts on runways.

I think all the flights diverted to Texas.

KenInIL on January 7, 2014 at 12:21 PM

My comment from yesterday’s “yes, it’s pretty damned cold all over” thread, excerpted from here:

In 1974, Time Magazine blamed the cold polar vortex on global cooling:

Scientists have found other indications of global cooling. For one thing there has been a noticeable expansion of the great belt of dry, high-altitude polar winds —the so-called circumpolar vortex—that sweep from west to east around the top and bottom of the world.

Forty years later, Time Magazine blames the cold polar vortex on global warming:

But not only does the cold spell not disprove climate change, it may well be that global warming could be making the occasional bout of extreme cold weather in the U.S. even more likely. Right now much of the U.S. is in the grip of a polar vortex, which is pretty much what it sounds like: a whirlwind of extremely cold, extremely dense air that forms near the poles.

At least the 1974 version made sense. Bryan Walsh’s 2014 version makes a complete farce out of science.

anotherJoe on January 7, 2014 at 12:36 PM

So far I haven’t found any evidence while reading the story, as to whether or not:

1) Locomotive(s) was off the track. Easy to do, when they strike a massive “drift” at speed.

2) The diesel engine (called the “prime mover” in railroad jargon) within the locomotive(s) continued running or not.
Did any of them run out of fuel? That’s key, because the locomotive provides ALL electrical power for “climate control”. Those rail cars would lose their heat rather quickly without power.

listens2glenn on January 7, 2014 at 10:32 AM

12 foot drift easily could have tripped traction motors/rectifiers or just plain caused traction issues.
not sure what loco model was but at those heights also could be issue with snow incursion into engine bay.

dmacleo on January 7, 2014 at 12:50 PM

I think that much of the uproar is because the cold is hitting the center of the Leftist media world, Chicago, New York, Boston, DC. The rest of the country, with the exception of Central and Southern California, and south of the Mason-Dixon line is used to getting cold spells like this every so often.

If it affects the inhabitants of Capitol City, and the Capitol City wanna-be’s; then by media definition, it is earth shattering. The slightest inconvenience to them is a tragedy. In the rest of the country, we know it happens, cuss a bit, handle it, and help those who are in trouble. And like my friends in North Dakota [whose high temperatures have not gotten above 0 for a while], make some rather morbid jokes.

Oh, and while they freeze in Lefty-land; we do remember the Federal government refusing to help ice storm victims for weeks in Tennessee and neighboring states in early 2009, shortly after the inauguration.

Subotai Bahadur on January 7, 2014 at 2:26 PM

Seeeeeee ooooooohhhhhhh twooooooooooooooO!!!!!1111111

OOAAAKLLANNDDDD!!!11312425576

Murphy9 on January 7, 2014 at 3:21 PM

Ugh, my wife forced my boys and me to ride the Amtrak from Dallas to Tucson over the holidays.

Even with nice weather it was the pit of a ride.

Many smelly passengers and crying babies. At least I did not slap them! LOL…..

Anyway – needless to say – i will never do that again.

I cannot imagine being on the Amtrak in hellish weather with backed up toilets…..

redguy on January 7, 2014 at 3:22 PM

I really think it is time to start a Global Cooling Group.

The evils of global cooling will have more of an impact than “Global Warming” ever will.

redguy on January 7, 2014 at 3:25 PM

This is soooo stupid. Mountains out of molehills.

Just take your phasers, set them to kill, and fire a few bursts at several surrounding rocks, like say, The Loop. No problem staying warm all evening.

WryTrvllr on January 7, 2014 at 10:57 PM

Cold? Its not cold!! I remember one winter back in the late 1950′s in Eagle Nest, NM which is in a valley 8500′ in Northern New Mexico. Anyway one morning the air temp was -58 f. Way before Wind Chill was coined. This low temp was mentioned on KOA radio in Denver. So don’t say its cold now… Wimps!!

jtpcamp on January 7, 2014 at 11:47 PM