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

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

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