It was 34 degrees when President Donald Trump ended his campaign rally in Omaha, Nebraska’s Eppley Airfield Tuesday night and boarded Air Force One.
Over the course of the next four hours, thousands of Trump rally attendees were stranded outside of the event — waiting for buses that were delayed due to what the Trump administration told an Omaha reporter was a traffic jam. At least 25,000 were in attendance at the rally.
Aaron Sanderford, a reporter at the Omaha World-Herald, was told by Trump officials that buses were having difficulty traveling through the access road to the rally site — which was “limited to one direction.”
The report was corroborated by CNN correspondent Jeff Zeleny, who said that thousands continued to be stuck nearly an hour-and-a-half after Trump left Omaha and called the scene a “cluster.”
“We need at least 30 more buses,” he quoted an Omaha officer as saying.
While the available buses were navigating the narrow, heavily-impacted roads, attendees were at risk of freezing in the cold. Officers in police cars drove some individuals back nearly four miles to the lot where their cars were parked, Sanderford reported.
City buses, per Omaha Police spokesman Officer Michael Pecha, were deployed to speed up the process of taking people back to parking lots. Many others, he added, walked back two or three miles to return to their cars — which contributed to traffic delays.
At least seven people, per Pecha, were transported to a nearby hospital. Others, officers allegedly said per Omaha Scanner, were showing signs of hypothermia, including fatigue and confusion.
Trump’s campaign rallies have come under scrutiny during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially as the president staged unmasked, undistanced rallies. A USA TODAY analysis found that five counties that held Trump rallies had higher rates of COVID after Trump showed up.
Trump’s campaign made stops nationwide. Coronavirus cases surged in his wake in at least five places.
Sanderford reported that the crowd in Omaha was almost fully cleared out by 1 a.m. the next morning.
Representatives from the Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment from USA TODAY.
Follow Joshua Bote on Twitter: @joshua_bote.
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