Amtrak trains heading to Chicago stranded in snow

5:31 AM, Jan 7, 2014   |    comments
View from car of Amtrak's Illinois Zephyr, one of three Amtrak passenger trains stuck in snow about 80 miles west of Chicago on Jan. 6, 2014 SIERRA SCHNACK,PASSENGER
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CHICAGO (CBS/AP) -- Blowing and drifting snow in north-central Illinois have stopped three Amtrak trains headed for Chicago. 

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari says more than 500 passengers are aboard three trains - The Southwest Chief from Los Angeles, the Illinois Zephyr from Quincy and the California Zephyr from the San Francisco Bay area. 

The trains were halted late Monday afternoon about 80 miles west of Chicago, Magliari tells CBS News.

Magliari says two of the trains are in Bureau County and the third is in Knox County.

He says the trains are operating on tracks owned by the BNSF railroad. Amtrak and BNSF employees are working to clear the tracks and have locomotives on the way to tow the trains, Magliari adds.

He says passengers will remain on the trains and are being fed and kept comfortable by the crews. Two of the trains have sleeping cars.

Magliari says emergency responders are at the trains should they be needed, but so far have been standing by.

Commander Jim Shipp, of the Bureau County, Ill. Sheriff's Department, tells CBS News plans are being made in case passengers need to be evacuated. The plans include opening the roads to the trains so passengers could be transported out.

The snow is part of a deep freeze affecting much of the nation.

© 2014 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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