How did drivers, Tim Kaine get stranded?

January 5, 2022
Drivers wait for the traffic to be cleared as cars and trucks are stranded on sections of Interstate 95 Tuesday Jan. 4, 2022, in Carmel Church, Va. Close to 48 miles of the Interstate was closed due to ice and snow.


The busy Interstate 95 reopened late Tuesday in Virginia after snow and ice brought traffic to a daylong standstill, but questions remained around why the winter weather left drivers stranded overnight.

The Virginia Department of Transportation said Wednesday morning that I-95 around Fredericksburg was open, though some icy conditions persisted. Crews worked the previous day to free up a roughly 50-mile traffic jam that forced scores of drivers to wait in their cars for more than 24 hours in some cases for the roads to clear.

Gov. Ralph Northam blamed the massive backup on “an incredibly unusual event” with around a foot of snow falling near Fredericksburg. Transportation officials said the winter weather started with rain, which would have washed away any treatment on roadways to prevent icing.

However, some motorist trapped in the backup vented frustration with officials’ response.

27-hour commute:Virginia officials pelted with questions after hundreds of drivers were stuck on I-95 overnight

“They passed out water (this morning). What is water going to do?” Maurice Watson told WJLA-TV. “I ain’t ate in 24 hours, I ran out of gas, I called VDOT six times. No one came! This is an outrage, this is how you treat your taxpayers?”

Ronni Schorr told the Washington Post she didn’t see any plows until Tuesday morning after being trapped on I-95 for 14 hours. “I’m not angry at the snow,” Schorr told the newspaper. “I’m just upset at the way they handled it.”

Among those trapped was also Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., who was driving to Washington, D.C., from Richmond and said the journey took him 27 hours.

Speaking with reporters after arriving in Washington, Kaine said he saw crews working overnight to clear the roads but called the incident “probably a good infrastructure story. Generally, we’re just not as big investors and infrastructure as we should be.”

The storm began with rain, which prevented Virginia transportation crews from pretreating the roadways, said Department of Transportation district engineer Marcie Parker. Trucks began to lose control and snow was falling at a rate of 2 inches per hour, she said.

“That was entirely too much for us to keep up with,” she told reporters. “Consequently, with the amount of traffic that we had on the interstate, the trucks and the cars couldn’t make it up and down the hills because we had too much snow and ice out there.”

Parker also said the snow knocked out power to some traffic cameras and the location of the logjam meant that express lanes weren’t much help to clear the backup.

Just after 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Virginia Department of Transportation tweeted the freeway had been reopened with no disabled vehicles remaining in the road.

The National Weather Service on Wednesday, though, said patches of freezing rain could cause slick travel conditions. The state transportation department warned drivers on I-95 be cautious.

It was unclear the exact number of vehicles that got caught in the backup, but photos and videos on social media showed hundreds lined up.

Overnight Monday into Tuesday morning, cold temperatures had drivers worried, and many turned off their cars for periods to conserve gas. Others walked around or passed out food.

Marvin Romero said he spent 20 hours on the roadway while driving with his children and returning from South Florida.

“To me, I see it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. How many people can actually say that they stepped on I-95, or they slept on I-95?” he said. “It’s hopefully a story that I can tell my grandkids one day.”

Contributing: Ledyard King, USA TODAY; The Associated Press


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