A military humvee, the workhorse of Desert Storm, came in handy in some very different conditions in Western Maryland.
Two National Guard soldiers cruised Interstate 70 during the height of Saturday's blizzard, picking up stranded motorists in white-out conditions. Sgts. Randy Hope and Michael Freushour set out from Hagerstown and motored along at 10 mph, making their way toward Frederick.
The guardsmen first came upon a massive accident on the westbound lanes near Myersville just after it occurred about 1 p.m.
"There were three tractor-trailers and 10 cars jackknifed -- all twisted up," Sergeant Hope says. Despite appearances, there were only two minor injuries.
"We ran across the median, and [the snow] was so bad we couldn't even see the humvee from there," Sergeant Hope says.
The two men took a truck driver with an injured arm to their vehicle as state troopers arrived. To reach the humvee, they waded through waist-deep snow in the median, risking injury themselves from other vehicles moving through the blinding, blowing onslaught of sleet and snow.
The two Frederick sergeants were among 80 Maryland guardsmen and 38 pieces of military equipment pressed into service to help fight the effects of the blizzard, says Col. Howard Freedlander, spokesman for the state's Army National Guard, which was activated by an emergency call late Saturday from Gov. William Donald Schaefer.
Sergeant Hope says he and his partner stopped the military utility vehicle at every stranded car they found, knocking on the windows, and taking with them those who didn't have enough fuel to keep their engines running. Most, however, chose to stay with their cars, hoping that plows would come through and allow them to proceed, he says.
The guardsmen eventually picked up eight stranded motorists. But, even loaded with the passengers and the two soldiers, the heavy humvee was blown sideways at one point by the high winds.
"It was incredible," Sergeant Hope said. "The sleet was like being shot in the face with a shotgun."
The injured trucker was taken to Frederick Memorial Hospital, then the other motorists were left at the I-70 Motor Inn, Sergeant Hope says.
With close to three feet of snow and drifts as high as 10 feet in much of Western Maryland, travel was nearly impossible. Major roads west of Frederick were ordered closed, stranding motorists at hotels and truck stops.
Officials said I-70 was passable at midafternoon yesterday, but Penn
sylvania roads were still closed, and police asked travelers to stay put another night before trying to head out on I-70, I-83 or I-81.
Not everyone found the roads impassable, though.
Alabama truck driver Kevin Schrand, 23, left Ohio Friday afternoon bound for Washington with 78,000 pounds of white office paper for the Department of Commerce.
The mail wasn't delivered in many storm-ravaged places Saturday, and I-70 was supposed to be closed, but Mr. Schrand, driving alone, made it through to Frederick, arriving about 3 a.m. yesterday, he said after awakening from a nap.
With his rig's weight, the wind wasn't a problem, he said, and by traveling 35 to 45 mph and weaving through the abandoned vehicles, he made it.
"I was slipping a couple times," he said, but he avoided sliding into a snowbank or jackknifing.
He said there were no more than two other vehicles moving on I-70 between Hagerstown and Frederick.
Bright and early this morning, Mr. Schrand said, the government will get its paper.