How to Get to a Stranded Story? By Snowmobile

Vehicles are stranded on the New York State Thruway during a winter storm in Buffalo, N.Y., Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010.
AP Photo

In hindsight, making the flight from JFK to Buffalo with three hour's notice was the easy part. Getting from Buffalo to, well, anywhere else, was the hard part.

I was sent to Buffalo with CBS News correspondent Elaine Quijano to cover the lake-effect snowstorm that, combined with a jack-knifed semi, caused a major backup on Interstate 90, stranding more than 100 motorists in their vehicles for, in some cases, more than a day.

(Scroll down to watch the video.)

Trying to get around an area that received more than two feet of snow in 24 hours is challenging, to say the least.

Here's an example: The most direct way to get from Buffalo's airport to our "CBS Evening News" live shot location in West Seneca was via the impassable Interstate 90. Most back roads remained unplowed and the alternate routes that were plowed were also jammed. A drive that would normally take 15 minutes took one hour and 45 minutes - that's longer than it took to fly from New York City to Buffalo.

By some traffic miracle, we made it to our affiliate's live truck in time to make our hit on the "Evening News."

But there was still work to do. We needed to get fresh material for our story on CBS' "The Early Show" the next morning. But how do we get to a story that's stranded on an interstate highway in more than two feet of snow?

By snowmobile, of course.

We hired two of the nicest snowmobilers in Buffalo to take us onto I-90 so we could take a closer look at the situation and so we could talk to some of the people who had been stranded. It was the first time I had ridden a snowmobile for a story. Actually, it was the first time I had ridden a snowmobile period.

Our snowmobiles got stuck a couple of times, but they proved to be the best way to maneuver the snow covered highway.

Among the stranded were the men's and women's basketball teams from Buffalo's D'Youville College. When we found them in their snow-covered charter bus, they were in surprisingly good spirits considering they had not only lost both of their road games the night before but also because they had been stuck in that bus for more than 20 hours.

Lucky for them, a few minutes after we arrived so did some bulldozers, clearing a path for the team's bus to finally roll on home.

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