Tuesday, December 14, 2010

300 stranded, OPP asks military for help

By mid-afternoon the severe weather was pounding London, Ontario.
Early Tuesday Search and Rescue technicians (SAR) and air crews from CFB Trenton began airlifting stranded motorists who had been trapped overnight on Hwy. 402 between London and Sarnia by a severe winter storm.

Capt. Annie Morin, public affairs officer for 8 Wing Trenton, confirmed that by 5:00 p.m. the military had rescued about 70 people. The OPP, assisted by local volunteers, together rescued a further unknown number. Designated locations have been set-up in Sarnia, Strathroy and Wyoming to receive the evacuated travelers.

By 7:00 p.m. CBC News was reporting: "All stranded motorists have been rescued, and police are now checking each vehicle to be sure no one was left behind."

Capt. Morin said two Griffon CH-146s and a special search and rescue configured Hercules CC-130 were dispatched from CFB Trenton just after midnight Monday at the request of the OPP who sought their assistance with the rescue of 300 motorists and their passengers. They were trapped in their vehicles along Hwy. 402 by a fierce winter storm .

Looks can be deceiving. West of here it was winter hell.
"The weather was not cooperating and our crews had to land in London for a few hours before taking off again. They reached Highway 402 at about 7:00 a.m. this morning (Tuesday)," Morin said.

The Hercules is equipped with portholes through which spotters peer to sight stranded motorists and guide the Griffon helicopters. The Hercules circling overhead also acts as a flying communications platform for the rescue operation.

The stranded motorists were not dramatically airlifted from the scene in baskets. Instead, the Griffons landed near the snow-trapped vehicles but far enough to not endanger anyone unfamiliar with helicopters and the dangers posed by the spinning rotors. The people were then able to walk to the helicopters, where they were strapped in to be airlifted to one of the designated areas.

The SAR technicians are prepared to handle medical emergencies but Morin had no word on the state of health of the evacuees.

A truck sits idle, as its driver waits for Hwy. 402 to reopen.
The winter storm that had closed Hwy. 402 Monday from London to Sarnia and kept it closed through Tuesday has now worsened, earning it the moniker "Son of Snowmageddon." It was just days ago that London suffered through a storm that dumped an almost record breaking amount of snow on the area.

Lake effect squalls have closed the Bluewater Highway heading north from Grand Bend to Port Elgin.

Check out the video from My Fox WJBK Detroit that is embedded into my Digital Journal story.

Click on the link.

Blowing snow at the 402 Lambeth exit hints at the conditions west of London.

Photojournalist Morris Lamont, reporter John Miner and others from the local paper, The London Free Press, filed storm photos to Twitpics.

#whiteout a mom comforts her little daughter while stranded f... on Twitpic A stranded mom comforts her daughter.

#whiteout just got back from Strathroy covering the storm. He... on Twitpic It looked like this on Highway 22 at 81.

OPP officers brought in from Perth County prepare to head out... on Twitpic Perth OPP brought in to help Strathroy police.

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