A closed section of Interstate 95 near Fredericksburg, Virginia. Photo: Virginia Department of Transportation (AP)
Hundreds of people are stuck in their cars on a stretch of highway in Virginia Monday and Tuesday after a severe snowstorm made roads nearly impassable. Traffic was still stuck on the highway Tuesday morning, as some motorists told the press they had been on the road for nearly 24 hours.
The 80-mile stretch of I-95 between Fredericksburg, Virginia and Washington, DC, became incredibly icy and snowy during Monday’s storm. Up to a foot (31 centimeters) of snow fell across the region and road authorities were unable to keep the highway clear. Even parts of the highway that were cleared on Monday frozen overnight at the low temperatures.
The Virginia Department of Transportation has kept that section of the highway closed in both directions on Tuesday to clear the roads and help drivers. The DOT said an accident involving six trucks around noon on Monday forced the south side of the highway to close, exacerbating the situation.
On Tuesday morning the emergency services were using the express lane to help drivers who ran out of fuel while waiting. Firefighters were also hand out blankets and water bottles to drivers.
“This is unprecedented and we are steadily moving stationary trucks to make progress in restoring lanes,” VDOT Fredericksburg District Engineer Marcie Parker said in a statement. “In addition to clearing the trucks, we are treating snow and several inches of ice that have accumulated around them to ensure motorists can drive safely to their destinations when lanes reopen.”
A closed section of Interstate 95 near Fredericksburg, Va. Photo: Virginia Department of Transportation (AP)
Drivers complained about the situation via social media and tried to seek help. sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia tweeted tuesday morning that he had been in the car for 19 hours after starting his “normal 2-hour drive to DC” Monday afternoon, and said his office was working with the DOT to help other drivers. In a nightmarish tweet thread Posted in the early hours of Tuesday morning, NBC reporter Josh Lederman shared his own hours-long experience of being stuck in his car, including worries about running out of gas and waiting in the cold. Lederman said he had seen cars abandoned after accidents or out of gas.
“This was a pretty insane and quite dystopian experience,” says Lederman told Morning Joe on Tuesday. “I can see thousands of cars from where I am on the highway… [they] sat in their car overnight without food, without water. It’s been 26 degrees outside and nobody knows how long we’ll stay here or how we’ll get out.”
People don’t just have a hard time on the highway; thousands trapped at home are also feeling the effects of the storm. More than 132,000 Dominion Energy customers in Central Virginia were still without power after the storm caused power outages Monday; an additional 90,000 Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (REC) customers also experienced outages. Warmer than usual weather is expected in the region by Thursday, although the next few days could be rough. REC officials said the outage is “historic” and both utilities said it could take days for some customers to get power back on.
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