Icy conditions cause interstate gridlock, makeshift shelter set up

One driver was making his way home from Chicago to Kentucky, but it took him 15 hours to move four and a half miles

As the wintry weather moved in late Friday night, travel along I-65 quickly turned into a nightmare.
Photo courtesy of WLFI

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — With the weather wreaking havoc on roadways, this weekend proved to be restless for countless people traveling Interstate 65.

As the wintry weather moved in late Friday night, travel along I-65 quickly turned into a nightmare.

“I’ve never seen anything like this where you’ve had to be in the same position for half a day or more,” stranded driver Jeff Perholtez said. “I’ve been in other accidents but, yeah, nothing like this.”

The interstate was better described as an ice skating rink, and countless slide-offs were reported Friday night and through Saturday morning. As conditions worsened, traffic came to a halt, leaving some drivers stranded for hours.

Perholtez was making his way home from Chicago to Covington, Kentucky. It took him 15 hours to move a measly four and a half miles down I-65.

“People were going crazy,” he said. “I was in the passing lane, and there were people that were so desperate to get out of there, they actually ran into the side of my van and bent my mirror to try to get by; people were that desperate.”

Crossing over into Saturday, the interstate was still impassable in some areas.

As a way to provide some relief, the American Red Cross set up a makeshift shelter at Faith East Saturday morning.

Kristina Chapman, a disaster program specialist with Red Cross, said the shelter is providing water, food and a place to rest.

“Anyone that’s stranded that needs a place to go as they’re trying to get the cars moving again, if they want to come in here and get warm, if they need to wait on a ride, depending on how their vehicle was – then we would be here to open our arms to them,” Chapman said.

Chapman said there are enough supplies on hand to assist 200 people.

“It seems like every winter we’re here [Faith East] at least once. We keep supplies even here on site so that when something happens, we just have to show up and open the building,” Chapman said.

As of 11 a.m. Saturday, Perholtez was the first to take advantage of the hospitality, getting some much-needed rest.

“It’s great that they’re here for me when I need them,” said Perholtez.

The weather even put a damper on his plans Friday night, but he’s still in good spirits.

“I was hoping to get to see ‘Star Wars’ last night and was scheduled to be back home in the Cincinnati area around 12:30, but that didn’t happen – so maybe tonight,” Perholtez said.

Red Cross officials are looking to keep the shelter open through 8 a.m. Sunday.

All lanes of I-65 were open as of 3:45 p.m. Saturday.

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