JAMESTOWN — Stutsman County Sheriff Chad Kaiser said late Friday afternoon that he was simply "tired" after leading a dramatic rescue of stranded motorists and passengers on a Jefferson Lines bus on Interstate 94 west of Jamestown in south-central North Dakota after icy roads and then an early fall blizzard paralyzed the area.
By late afternoon, about 14 inches of snow had blasted the area. Kaiser was urging residents to stay off the roads as the snow continued to fall and winds were picking up speed.
With the interstate closed, he said some people were going onto Google Maps and finding ways around the closed interstate. He said that wasn't a good idea as they were left to remote highways in the county.
As his department used a local school bus to make a loop on the interstate with a state plow leading the way, he said they not only picked up the 42 passengers on the Jefferson Lines bus, but also another 15 stranded drivers stuck on the roadway from the county line near Medina about 45 miles west of Jamestown into the city.
He said about six or seven truck drivers told the sheriff they were going to stay with their semis and refused to board the bus.
"I told them there was a slim to none chance that we would come out again," said the sheriff about another possible rescue operation and added that if it weren't for the state plows, they wouldn't have been able to save the people.
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As for the truck drivers, Kaiser said as long as they had fuel, they'd probably be OK and that it wasn't unusual for them to stay with their vehicles.
The Jefferson Bus accident started the rescue operation as it spun out on the icy road and blocked the interstate about 5:30 a.m. Friday. The bus went into the ditch and in trying to get out, the transmission on the bus went out, Kaiser said.
The bus was towed to a nearby exit and the passengers boarded the Jamestown school bus.
The rescue operation continued until mid-afternoon Friday. Back in Jamestown, Kaiser said there were windrows in the middle of the city streets where plows were out.
"It's horrible," he said about the storm's effects.