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WDAY: The News Leader

Published February 03, 2011, 08:52 AM

Frazee driver glad to be home after getting stranded on the interstate for 12 hours

I-29 in South Dakota is open again tonight, after 150-vehicles got stranded overnight in a ground blizzard. Nearly 12 hours after getting off the snowy interstate, a tired Phil Carlson is happy to be home. The Frazee father spent half the day trapped in his van.

By: Travis Skonseng, WDAY

(WDAY TV) - I-29 in South Dakota is open again tonight, after 150-vehicles got stranded overnight in a ground blizzard. It happened in a 16-mile stretch between Sisseton and Summit, in a Valley that's known for getting packed in with snow.

The Weather Service says winds were gusting over 50-mies an hour and some snowdrifts were 4-feet high. Most of the people, who wanted to be rescued, were this morning.

The D-O-T used military-style vehicles to get more than 50-people out of their vehicles. Some chose to stay in their cars until the road was cleared. Some of the stuck drivers say they're frustrated and someone dropped the ball.

Tonight, South Dakota governor Dennis Daugaard and the DOT admit mistakes were made. 511 didn't warn drivers about the conditions. We spoke with one of the 150 or so drivers stuck in the deadly cold temperatures.

PHIL CARLSON - Stranded Driver: “It was an interesting night. I was glad to get out of there.”

Nearly 12 hours after getting off the snowy interstate, a tired Phil Carlson is happy to be home. The Frazee father spent half the day trapped in his van.

“It was a long, long 12 hours.”

Carlson was driving from Sioux Falls when road conditions suddenly went from good to bad. Visibility worsened for 20 miles, and then he saw flashing lights.

“You couldn't see anything but a line of cars in both lanes.”

Traffic stood still, at a dead halt. Carlson knew he was stranded, all alone, with no food or anything to drink. Thankfully, he had just filled up his van with gas.

“I just sat there and sat there and sat there.”

With little to do, he slowly watched 56 mile per hour winds blow 6 foot drifts around his van. Mothers and children, in vehicles surrounding his, 12 hours later plows started digging out.

“Sure enough about 20 minutes later there was at least a lane for me to get by.”

Carlson says he never feared for his life as search and rescue crews checked on him three times. He didn't know the weather was so bad even after calling 511.

“It just said it was slippery.”

Tonight, he looks at pictures of the ordeal. Carlson smiles through it all, saying he'll never again take such a daring risk.

“To listen to that voice inside my head that says stop for the night stop for the night. I would have rather been in a hotel room sleeping in a comfortable bed than stuck on a highway all night long.”

More than 50 people decided to leave their vehicles and seek shelter at a casino in Sisseton, cafe, or rest stop. The governor is asking the DOT update road reports whenever snow plows are out after normal business hours. A state investigation is in the works.

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