Drivers stranded for hours on I-95 in Virginia after winter storm
Drivers along a 50-mile stretch of Interstate 95 in Virginia were stranded in freezing temperatures for hours after a multi-vehicle crash brought the road to a standstill and the first mid-Atlantic storm of the year dumped more than a foot of snow over the region.
Among those caught in the chaos is US Senator Tim Kaine, with the Virginia Democrat claiming he has been stuck in traffic for at least 19 hours.
âI started my normal 2 hour commute to DC at 1 pm yesterday. 7 hours later I’m still not near the Capitol,â he wrote in a tweet Tuesday morning.
Kaine said his office was in contact with the Virginia Department of Transportation “to see how we can help other Virginians in this situation.”
âPlease stay safe everyone,â he said.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said his office was working to respond to the situation on I-95.
“State and local emergency personnel continue to clean up felled trees, assist broken down vehicles and reroute drivers,” he said in a tweet.
“An emergency message is being sent to all stranded drivers connecting them to assistance, and the state is working with communities to open heated shelters as needed,” he said urging drivers to continue. to avoid the highway.
Seb Lancaster, a 21-year-old film and television student at Boston University, was on his way to visit his father in Connecticut with his twin sister, boyfriend and dog when they got on the highway and got stranded, forcing them to stay overnight stuck in an icy vehicle.
âMy parents are immunosuppressed and I assumed road travel would be safer than omicron flights,â he said, referring to the highly transmissible variant of Covid.
Lancaster said it entered the traffic jam just after 3 p.m. on Monday when there was “a bit of movement for a while”, allowing drivers to move forward.
However, at around 11 pm, he said traffic had “stopped”, leaving him and his passengers trapped in their vehicle within hours.
Like a scene from ‘La La Land’
âJust after midnight the street was packed like the ‘La La Land’ flashmob,â he said, referring to the opening scene of the blockbuster movie starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling when motorists trapped got out of their cars for a gleeful performance of âAnother Sunshine Day.
âAlthough it was a lot darker,â he said, âwith people crying, smoking, walking their kids (and) pets, and begging for supplies.â
“Cars are stuck, trees are felled, there are miles of parked cars scattered unevenly around the huge piles of ice to avoid getting stuck, making any real emergency effort to reach us impossible,” he said in Twitter messages as his brother. and his partner were sleeping.
Another motorist, Anne Gould, described a chaotic scene.
Gould was on his annual trip to Florida when traffic stopped Monday afternoon. She told the news station that she only moved a few car lengths on Tuesday around 6:20 a.m.
While some motorists abandoned their vehicles, others faced a dire situation as they ran out of gas and had no access to food or water.
Some also warned they had children and animals in their vehicles, as they struggled to weather the storm, NBC Washington reported.
The chaos unfolded when all southbound lanes of I-95 were closed at km 136 near Centreport Parkway after a multiple vehicle crash around noon Monday.
No one was injured in the incident, but the collision caused delays, with the Virginia Department of Transportation subsequently warning heavy snow continued to slow traffic.
In one press release posted on Twitter At around 8:40 p.m., the agency described the situation as “frustrating and frightening”.
âWe want to have a timeline, an ETA, or an educated estimate of when travel will resume on I-95,â the department said. “It’s stalled in our region with multiple incidents. It’s frustrating and scary.”
âPlease know that our crews are not stopping,â he said, adding: âCrews will be working 24/7 until ALL roads maintained by the State are safe for travel. “
Early Tuesday morning, the department said crews “were now mobilizing to begin taking people stopped on the freeway near nearby interchanges to take them on other routes.”
He also said snow plows and tow trucks were on the scene, adding that motorists should plan to avoid traveling on the freeway “until the lanes reopen and significant congestion clears the area. “.
NBC News correspondent Josh Lederman was also caught in chaos, with his pet dog in the backseat.
âI try not to tweet about the everyday annoyances, but this experience was insane,â he said in a tweet.
âFor the past 7+ hours, I’ve been stuck in my car, motionless, in a blackout on the northbound I-95 about 30 miles south of DC,â Lederman said.
âThe highway is absolutely littered with broken down vehicles. Not just cars. Seedlings, everything. No one can move. People run out of gas or abandon vehicles,â he said in a separate tweet.
He later told NBC’s “TODAY” that he returned home safe and sound after what he described as a “crazy night.”
âWe were lucky. We had enough gasoline to go through without losing the power of the car. We were fine without water or food, but it was a scary situation,â said Lederman.
âI think people expect, given the time we have here, that you will face delays on the road,â he said. “People weren’t expecting, at least I certainly wasn’t, that they would have to spend all night waiting to see if someone was going to come and clear the road so people could get out.”
âYou don’t expect to do math on, okay, do I have enough water to get through this before I find myself in some kind of predicament,â he said. “Do I have enough gasoline in my idling car on this highway?” (Can she) run all night and keep me warm? “
‘I’m afraid to sleep’
Lancaster said he tried to call the Virginia Department of Transportation himself, but was left “on hold” for two hours.
Before that, he said he was trying to reassure his sister and her partner that “help will be here soon”.
âAnd it was around 4 am when I suddenly realized that help was not coming,â he said.
âI’m scared to sleep and I’m scared to stand up and see what’s going on,â Lancaster added.
When traffic starts to move, he said he was also nervous about having to drive on icy roads.
âWith the traffic jams that started during the blizzard, the road below us has never been (and hasn’t been) salty yet,â Lancaster said. “I’m from Florida and have never driven on the ice beforeâ¦ so really anxious about what’s next.”
â(I) am really terrified,â he added.
The national meteorological service warned that patches of ice could be “particularly problematic” on untreated roads from Tennessee to Maryland following heavy and wet snowfall.
As drivers got trapped on the freeway, residents also faced massive blackouts that saw more than 400,000 customers from Georgia to Maryland without power on Tuesday morning, according to PowerOutage.US.
Almost 300,000 of these outages have been reported in Virginia alone.