DANSVILLE — The November Storm known forever as “Knife” might be a distant memory for some, but those who were stranded in it will never forget.
Among the many who were stranded on the thruway during the storm was a FedEx employee Peter Hoag, of Dansville who will be receiving a Humanitarian Award on Aug. 12 in St. Louis, MI.
Kay Hoag, Peter’s mother told Genesee Country Express about her son’s heroic efforts to help fellow human beings who were stuck in the storm on Nov. 17, 2014.
“During the severe snow storm on the thruway he was stranded for 33 hours in his FedEx truck,” she said. “He kept the truck running so he didn’t freeze, and helped to shovel out the gals who were stuck behind him.”
Peter Hoag received a call from the FedEx headquarters in St. Louis telling him he had won the Humanitarian Award for his service that day.
“FedEx is going to fly my wife and I down to St. Louis for the big ceremony, and we will be there for three days,” he said.
The storm blanketed the Buffalo Region with several feet of snow in record breaking numbers. This called for the National Guard to help dig people out, and many were trapped for several hours on the thruways with no way out. The kindness of strangers was well documented that day.
“We were stranded for 33 hours with no assistance whatsoever,” Peter Hoag recalls. “We (truck drivers) contacted each other on our CB radios, and were told to look at the cars behind us. I looked at the car behind me and saw they kept shutting their car off due to carbon monoxide. I kept shoveling them out, so they could turn their car back on to keep warm.”
Peter Hoag believes he did what anyone else would have done in his situation.
“When you come into a situation like that everyone helps,” he said.
“I was on route from Pittsburgh to Henrietta and I was up for 58 hours before I could get the truck to Rochester and go home,” Peter Hoag continued. “I was stopped near the Blasdell Exit at 1 a.m. and was not able to be dug out until 11:30 a.m. the next day. I had a day-and-a-half off from work so I could get some rest.”
The 610-miles-route is familiar to Peter Hoag who has been working it four days a week for the past 10 years.
He explained how this caught the eye of headquarters.
“In this age of telephones the girls were doing a live interview in their car,” Peter Hoag said. “They were Romance novelist up in Buffalo for a book signing and were from Syracuse. My boss is stationed in Syracuse, and saw the interview on television, and the video of me digging them out.”
Since no one could get to them for many hours the girls shared their food and drinks with Peter Hoag while he kept them from freezing to death.
“They ran me way over my minutes blowing my phone up with texts and phone calls for 12 hours,” Peter Hoag added. “It was OK though, because they were scared.”
Peter Hoag believes people saw that truck drivers are not big scary people, but guys who have families and are just trying to make a living.
“Everyone thinks people who drive rigs are be scary guys, but all of them are good guys with families. People come together … a lot of people took heat for not closing the thruway down,” he said. “A lot of people do nice
things on the road. Something like this happens and the human side of people comes out. It was mostly truck drivers stuck out there since we do a lot of night driving. We had the CB radio chatter on the whole time and I saw a lot of people doing nice things out there.”
The girls (believed to be in their mid-30s) would not have survived in that storm without Peter Hoag’s compassion.
“No one could survive in that exposure very long,” he said. “Ever since that storm I carry a backpack filled with supplies to work. I luckily had the other guys coat in the truck so I used it to wrap around my legs and keep warm before I would go back out to shovel. I eventually shoveled a path to under my wheels to push the car away from the snow a little. That helped.”