Dec 14, 2010

LONDON, ON, Dec. 14 /CNW/ - The OPP and multiple rescue partners have now checked all vehicles and removed any passengers found stranded on Highway 402 in Lambton County, site of a major winter storm.

The OPP checked 200 tractor trailers and 124 cars trapped in deep snow along the highway. Police officers and Canadian Forces personnel rescued 237 people from these vehicles. Some vehicles were found to be abandoned.

The OPP will continue to patrol Highway 402 and are now checking nearby roadways on motorized snow vehicles and all terrain vehicles to ensure that no one has been left behind. There are no reports of missing persons in the storm at this time.

There has been one injury related to the 402 rescue effort. An OPP officer received a minor injury while trying to reach stranded motorists.

The Lambton County state-of-emergency remains in effect and Highway 402 remains closed and roads in the surrounding region are considered unsafe due to blowing snow and whiteout conditions. The OPP is urging drivers in the southwest region of the Province to avoid travelling until conditions improve.

The OPP is leading the rescue operation and continues to work in concert with the Canadian Forces, Lambton County Emergency Services personnel, Emergency Management Ontario and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO). The OPP thanks its partners for their continuing professional and coordinated response to the storm.

The OPP has established an Emergency Operations Centre and Search and Rescue Command and has committed significant resources to this rescue operation.  Specialized resources from Western Region and other Regions of the OPP have been assigned, including the OPP Emergency Response Team.

In a related move, adjacent Middlesex County has declared a state-of-emergency and closed several roads. There are no reports of stranded motorists in Middlesex County at this time.

Motorists who find themselves stranded are encouraged to remain calm, stay in their vehicle and consider pooling vehicle resources until the OPP and other rescuers are able to reach their location.  Motorists are also encouraged to ensure their vehicle exhaust is clear of snow to ensure clean air supply to the vehicle interior.

Members of the public inquiring about stranded motorists can call 1-888-310-1122 for information.

For media inquiries please call 519-652-4109 or 519-652-4151.

For road conditions please call 1-800-268-4686 or visit the Ministry of Transportation web site at: http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/safety/winterdrive/winterdrive.shtml

Ontario motorists travelling long distances in rural areas during winter are encouraged to keep an emergency kit in their vehicle. Visit the MTO web site for a description of a proper emergency kit at: http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/safety/winterdrive/winterdrive.shtml

For further information:

OPP Media Contact:  519-652-4109 or 519-652-4151