About 30 stranded motorists were finally rescued this afternoon in Lake County, more than 16 hours after a jackknifed truck brought traffic to a standstill near Antioch.
Jerry Franz of Winthrop Harbor had ventured out in the snow to pick up his wife, Lisa, from work Tuesday evening. As they approached the intersection of U.S. 45 and Illinois Route 173 around 9 p.m., they came to a standstill, Lisa Franz said.
They weren't rescued until about 1 p.m. this afternoon.
The jackknifed truck made it impossible for about 30 cars to pass, forcing them all to endure a cold, snowy night on the road. The stranded motorists made well-being checks on each other throughout the ordeal, before hustling back to their own cars to keep warm, said Lisa Franz.
The Franzes called police and their grown children to alert them to the situation Tuesday night, then settled in for the long wait. As the night grew darker, the wind howled and the snow made it impossible to see anything through their windows, Lisa became anxious. Married 39 years, she kept thinking about her upcoming anniversary in March and how much she wanted to celebrate it.
"I keep telling my husband I want to reach our 40th," she told the Tribune just before noon today. "We can’t stop here."
The Lake County Sheriff’s spokesman said the department had worked nonstop since Tuesday helping to rescue more than 200 stranded motorists in less that 24 hours.
The Franzes passed the night talking because both were too scared to sleep. They hadn’t eaten anything since lunch Tuesday, save some licorice and candy hearts that Jerry had in the car. To keep hydrated, they were filling an empty water bottle with snow and melting it inside the car.
In lieu of any bathroom facilities, Lisa Franz emptied a box of baby wipes and fashioned it into a makeshift commode.
"You have to do what you have to do," she said, laughing.
Her laughter, however, quickly turned to tears as Franz admitted that she was terrified. The couple has less than a quarter tank of gas and the nearest station is about a mile away.
She said she remained calm until learning about a stranded motorist who was found dead in his vehicle on U.S. Route 45 near Casey Road. A cause of death has not been determined, but Lake County Sheriff Chief Wayne Hunter has said one of his main concerns is stranded motorists dying of carbon monoxide poisoning if their tailpipes are obstructed by snow.
The couple repeatedly checked their tailpipe, but that offered Lisa Franz little solace as she awaited rescue.
"I was holding up OK until I heard someone died out here and then I just started crying," she said. "You feel so helpless."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun