Florida residents Patrick and Sue Ellen Kilgallon knew the storm was coming. They tried to get out of northern Kentucky on Wednesday night. Instead, they got stuck in the snow on Interstate 65.
The couple and their two dogs were still there Thursday morning, more than 14 hours later.
“We’re just sitting here praying, hoping to get out,” Patrick Kilgallon told CNN on Thursday.
They were among hundreds of motorists stranded on I-65 near Elizabethtown, Kentucky, and on Interstate 24 near Paducah after a storm so intense, road crews just couldn’t keep up.
The Kentucky National Guard was on the scene on both highways, rescuing motorists and taking them to nearby warming centers, Lt. Col. Kirk Hilbrecht told CNN.
“Hang tight, we are coming,” he assured motorists.
Hundreds of travelers stranded on I-24 in KY. Guess I should've checked the forecast first. pic.twitter.com/g5oOMpQfKW
— Dan Drayer (@DanDrayer) March 5, 2015
A morning weather report indicated that over a 15-hour span, 21 inches of snow had fallen on Elizabethtown, about 50 miles south of Louisville. Other parts of Kentucky, along with parts of Ohio to the north and Tennessee to the south, have seen more than a foot of snow.
Although the snow had stopped, state police reported the interstates and many local roads remained impassable.
— sydney (@SydneyMil) March 5, 2015
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet said Thursday morning that the mess on I-65 was slowly being cleared and published a hotline number for motorists stranded on the highway.
Stranded motorists on I-65 can call 270-765-5978 for assistance. Motorists in need will be transported to Prichard Community Center in Etown
— KYTC (@KYTC) March 5, 2015
State police said it would likely be several more hours before the road is fully cleared.
The Kilgallons gassed up Wednesday night and tried to beat the storm as they traveled south for Florida.
But 25 miles south of Louisville, they hit “nothing but dead stop” on I-65.
Though a traffic camera on I-65 between Louisville and Elizabethtown shows southbound traffic at a standstill and empty northbound lanes, Sue Ellen Kilgallon said she saw sporadic traffic headed north.
Kilgallon has a scanner in the car and said she has heard that a tractor-trailer collided with several cars, and while the truck was moved, there were not enough tow trucks to move the other vehicles involved in the accident.
The Kilgallons had a few snacks left and are rationing the water they have left, Patrick Kilgallon said Thursday afternoon. They ran the engine on their new Jeep all night to keep warm and prevent the ice from encrusting the car too deeply, he said.
They can’t do anything but wait now.
Asked if she was upset with Kentucky officials, Sue Ellen Kilgallon said no.
“I think they’re doing the best they can,” she said. “I’d cry if it weren’t so amusing.”
Spent the night on the highway its been 9hrs since we been stuck here on the hwy btwn Bonnieville & Etown
— c•h•e•l•s•e•a (@ColorMeTempted) March 5, 2015
CNN’s Chuck Johnston, Brandon Miller and Carol Costello contributed to this report.