Passengers stuck on an Amtrak train in Oakridge, Ore. sent out a desperate plea late last night.
"It is dark. There is more snow on the way, and we are stranded for another night," passenger Rebekah Dodson said in a video sent to reporters on Twitter. "Please send help."
Dodson was one of nearly 200 passengers stranded on the Coast Starlight Train 50 miles outside of Eugene for over 36 hours after the train hit a tree Sunday.
Dodson told The Oregonian last night that Amtrak served passengers food, but that they eventually ran out of drinking water and parents with small kids had to fashion makeshift diapers in desperation.
The horror story has captured national media attention, and highlights the severe impact of Monday's massive snowstorm, which dropped a foot of snow in the Eugene area.
How bad did it get? Dodson did not immediately respond to WW's request for comment. But she wrote on Facebook yesterday morning, "This is hell, and it's getting worse."
She says she was one of few people with phone service, and spend the night lending out her phone, talking people out of panic attacks and "chasing down toddlers."
In an interview with KTVL News, Dodson added that as hours wore on, people had to search the train for pads and tampons after running out of supplies.
"We've opened windows, we've gotten yelled at for opening windows," she told KTVL. "We can't get off the train because there's four feet of snow in every direction, there's nowhere to go."
In a live video she streamed 19 hours into being stuck, Dodson noted that the trip from Seattle to Klamath Falls usually took her four hours and was "uneventful."
"I cannot believe that I'm stuck in this snowstorm," she said.
The train departed from Seattle on Sunday and made it just over 300 miles before getting stuck at 6:18 pm, Amtrak says in a statement. This morning, over a day and a half later, Union Pacific, the company that owns the railway, has finally towed the train out and sent it back on its way to Eugene.
"Due to worsening conditions, area road closures and no viable way to safely transport passengers or crews via alternate transportation, Amtrak Coast Starlight train 11 stopped in Oakridge, Oregon," Amtrak spokesperson Olivia Irvin tells WW. "We actively worked with Union Pacific to clear the right of way."
Irvin says the train will be serviced and restocked in Eugene and that passengers will be given food, "including donuts and coffee."
She adds that this is an extremely rare situation, and that road closures and power outages in the areas surrounding the train made it difficult to aid passengers.
"In this situation it was safest for the customers to remain on the train," she says.
Irvin says a claim made by Dodson in her video plea last night that the national guard was coming to rescue crew members but not passengers was not true. She says Amtrak staff plan to meet the train before it gets to Eugene and stock it with more food and supplies.
In an official statement, Amtrak says it plans to contact customers to "provide refunds and other compensation as appropriate."
"We sincerely regret the extended delay customers on the southbound Coast Starlight experienced due to extreme weather issues while traveling with Amtrak," the statement reads. "With more than a foot of heavy snow and numerous trees blocking the track, we made every decision in the best interest of the safety of our customers during the unfortunate sequence of events."
In an update on her Facebook page this morning, Dodson and passengers cheered as the train finally started to move, some brought to tears.
"I feel like I'm going to cry right now," Dodson said in a video. "I can't go home to Klamath [Falls] and I don't even care anymore."
KATU News reports that the Oregon Department of Transportation plans to investigate what happened, "if it was caused by operating of train, bad track or faulty equipment."
A spokesperson for ODOT did not immediately respond to requests for comment.