By CHRISTINA ROSALES, Dallas Morning News
Stranded in their car, on an icy highway, with nowhere to go, Douglas Hecht and his family felt like hostages.
For nearly 12 hours on Interstate 35 near Denton, Hecht kept turning his car on and off to keep heat circulating. His wife, Darcy, and their 8-year-old daughter, Joslyn, cuddled under blankets and nibbled snacks.
He and hundreds of others — in cars, trucks, buses and tractor-trailers — were stuck. Two 18-wheelers couldn’t make it up a hill late Friday, leaving both southbound highway lanes blocked through Saturday.
That caused an eventual 12-mile backup. State transportation officials deployed about nine sand trucks to treat the road, but the ice was so thick that the traction material wasn’t working fast enough.
Hecht, trying to get home to Fort Worth from Oklahoma City, made it into northern Denton County. By 1 p.m. Friday, he and others around him came to a complete stop.
Help came at midnight. There was a tap on the window of their Honda Accord. A young woman with a flashlight offered them shelter and a meal at the nearby Freedom Life Church in Sanger.
“It got to be really scary,” he said. “It was the very first time I was really worried about what would happen to me and my family.”
The pastor, Gary Sweatman, opened the church after seeing news reports about the gridlock. He gathered dozens of volunteers and enough food and supplies to serve about 1,000 people who were stuck.
“Some way, some how, we all served all these people,” Sweatman said Saturday. “It opened my eyes to see people at work like that.”
Meanwhile, others on the highway turned to Twitter and Facebook to update friends and families. As word got out, residents offered help and their house bathrooms. Law officers also conducted welfare checks.
A Christian musical group, Selah, was among those stuck for 17 hours, their caravan of tour buses carrying other bands and artists.
Singer Todd Smith walked around cars offering his bus to those who needed to warm up.
“There was a lot of people offering what they could to everyone,” he said. “A guy was offering people chicken pot pies and water and running back and forth to his home to get more supplies.”
A McDonald’s restaurant nearby opened its doors for people to take refuge and to use bathrooms.
Drivers left their vehicles behind, bought Happy Meals for their children and checked on other people who couldn’t leave their cars.
By Saturday afternoon, the blockage on the interstate finally had been cleared. Traffic began crawling through.
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