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Fargo-area youth group heading home after being stranded on stormy Penn. Turnpike overnight

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Members of Fargo and Casselton church youth groups attending a March for Life rally in Washington, D.C., this week were stranded Friday night and Saturday on the Pennsylvania Turnpike after semis there crashed in stormy weather, forcing other drivers to wait many hours for the jam to be cleared. Submitted photo2 / 4
Members of Fargo and Casselton church youth groups attending a March for Life rally in Washington, D.C., this week were stranded Friday night and Saturday on the Pennsylvania Turnpike after semis there crashed in stormy weather, forcing other drivers to wait many hours for the jam to be cleared. Submitted photo3 / 4
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BEDFORD, Pa. – After spending almost a day on the Pennsylvania Turnpike because of heavy snow and multiple semi accidents, a group of Fargo teens and chaperones is on their way home again.

The 34 teens and six adult chaperones drove to Washington, D.C., earlier this week to attend the March for Life anti-abortion rally Friday. Their bus left Washington shortly after the rally, intending to drive through the night to get back to Fargo on Saturday.

But Jeff Benda, youth director of Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Fargo, said their journey came to a standstill on the Pennsylvania Turnpike around 8 p.m. Friday when several jackknifed semis completely blocked the road and heavy snow covered the highway.

The group’s bus started moving again shortly after 5 p.m. Central time Saturday, but Benda said they’d head east and take an alternate route to get off the turnpike and onto Interstate 80 before they could start driving west again.

If all goes to plan, he said they should make it back to Fargo sometime late Sunday afternoon.

Related: Monster blizzard brings East Coast to standstill

Still, Benda said the group was relatively lucky during its long wait near the Allegheny Tunnel, which is about 90 minutes east of Pittsburgh. Their bus was equipped with electric outlets, wireless Internet and an on-board bathroom, and they were provided food and water to get through the delay.

“It would be like getting trapped in a hotel room,” he said.

A view of the blocked Pennsylvania Turnpike that stranded a bus of Fargo church youth and chaperones.

Teens from Fargo’s Holy Spirit Catholic Church and Sts. Anne & Joachim Catholic Church, as well as St. Leo Catholic Church in Casselton, N.D., were on the bus, according to Benda.

Elizabeth Anderson, a Fargo North High School senior on the trip, said the long delay wasn’t too bad. Teens kept busy watching movies, playing games or just napping while they waited, she said Saturday afternoon.

She was determined to stay productive and said she was working on a scholarship competition video. Still, she said it was a memorable and unexpected development on her third trip to Washington.

“Our bus got stuck in Chicago last year for about six hours,” she said. “We thought that was bad, but I guess not.”

Ryan Johnson

Ryan Johnson has been a Forum reporter since 2012 and previously wrote for the Grand Forks Herald.

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