WEST ORANGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Thursday’s storm meant an unexpected sleepover for some students when buses couldn’t get to schools to pick up them up and take them home.
Students at Liberty Middle School in West Orange, N.J., were forced to spend the night at school after unsafe driving conditions left buses stranded, reports CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis.
Thursday evening, the district announced buses had to stop running their routes until they received the all-clear from police. Around 10 p.m., the district followed its shelter-in-place protocol and opted to have students stay at the school.
Drivers described the roads as essentially impassible.
“Standstill, standstill, people making lanes out of lanes that didn’t exist,” said James Harris of West Orange. “It took me about 12 hours for a 10-minute drive.”
“Some students were panicking, some were having anxiety attacks and some were just fine,” said eighth-grader Yarie Garcia.
The students say the staff members made it easy, turning it into more of a slumber party.
Pictures show about 100 students and 25 staff members inside Liberty Middle School, playing games, watching a movie, eating snacks and even sleeping on gym mats.
“Gave us dinner and breakfast, played basketball, sat in auditorium watched movies,” said eighth-grader Isaiah Bondurant.
With the storm making it impossible for buses to either pick kids up – or get them home after they got on board – some buses got stuck near the Chit-Chat diner.
“They had nowhere to go, kids were stuck there a couple of hours, they were hungry,” said Leo Novakidis, manager of the diner. “Some hadn’t gone to the bathroom.”
The restaurant opened its doors to around 100 kids giving them free food and drinks.
“We’re new to the community, we’re looking to help out and were glad to help,” said Novakidis.
The next morning, students were allowed to leave the building.
“Glad to be in the car on the way home,” said Bondurant.
“I tried to get here last night but I can’t get up because a lot of traffic, a lot of cables in the road,” said one parent.
“I was very worried but once they ensured me the kids were safe, I was much happier,” said parent James Bondurant.
Parents could be seen picking up their kids from Kelly Elementary School early Friday morning.
Traffic was a mess across the Garden State, with state police responding to at least 555 accidents and assisting more than 1,000 drivers will issues like spin-out and flat tires.
The acting superintendent Eveny de Mendez said it was to the credit of police, department of public works and the school staff for really coming together to keep everyone safe.
School was closed Friday, but was due back to be open on Monday.
Stick with CBSNewYork.com for the latest commuter alerts, school closings and weather conditions.