LAPORTE, Ind. —Kate Ergang wasn't worried when two jackknifed semis trapped her and a friend on an Indiana highway in a blizzard. They had eaten dinner and had blankets and pillows in the car. They talked, listened to their iPods and dozed off.
But Ergang had a few minutes of panic Monday morning when she woke and realized that nearly 12 hours later, the traffic hadn't moved.
More than 100 vehicles were stuck Monday on northern Indiana's snow-covered highways. Strong winds and blowing snow hampered snow plow drivers' efforts to free them, but all motorists had been safely rescued by Monday evening, said Amy Bluhm, a dispatcher with LaPorte County 911.
The wind and heavy lake-effect snow were part of a slow-moving storm that has been crawling across the Midwest since Friday night.
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At least 15 deaths have been attributed to the storm, which dumped nearly 2 feet of snow in parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin before moving into Michigan and Indiana. Monday, it stretched farther east, with snow in parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.
Up to 16 inches of snow fell in northwest Indiana, where 70 drivers got stuck in drifts on a section of Indiana 2 in the Valparaiso area. Ergang and her friend, Allison Frank, were among an unknown number trapped on U.S. 30.
They were driving home to Crown Point on Sunday after visiting friends in central Indiana. All was fine until they reached Wanatah, about 35 miles southwest of South Bend.
"It was a whiteout. It was like a tornado of snow," Ergang said.
Indiana state police Lt. Lou Brown said some people made the situation worse by driving on roads that were closed or abandoning vehicles that got stuck.
"People would get into a snowdrift and couldn't go anywhere so they'd just leave the vehicle to get out of the weather," he said. "It just plugs things up and then snow plows can't get around them."
At least eight people in four states, including Indiana, died in traffic accidents related to the storm, and a 79-year-old man snow-blowing the end of his driveway in western Wisconsin was killed when a plow backed into him.
Five more died after shoveling or blowing snow, and Kenneth Swanson, 58, of rural River Falls, Wis., died when a metal shed collapsed from the heavy snow, pinning him under debris and about 3 feet of snow.
Along with the wind and snow, the upper Midwest was gripped by bone-chilling cold brought by arctic air that swept in behind the storm. Wind chills were below zero in many places Monday, and schools in Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and other states shut down.
Back in Indiana, truck drivers stopped at the Junction City Restaurant in Rolling Prairie near the intersection of U.S. 20 and Indiana 2 for lunch, hoping the conditions would improve. They said driving was particularly difficult in areas where wind was blowing across open farmland, sweeping the snow onto highways and making it hard to see.