I-95 in Virginia packed with stranded motorists after winter storm

January 4, 2022
This image provided by the Virginia department of Transportation shows a closed section of Interstate 95 near Fredericksburg, Va. Monday Jan. 3, 2022. Both northbound and southbound sections of the highway were closed due to snow and ice.
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  • The winter storm blanketed several states in the mid-Atlantic and South on Monday, closing schools and causing power outages.
  • In Virginia, drivers were stranded in a 50-mile stretch of Interstate 95 near Fredericksburg overnight.
  • Five deaths across three states were caused by the weather.

Ice and snow stranded hundreds of drivers on Interstate 95 in Virginia into Tuesday after a winter storm pounded the mid-Atlantic and dumped more than a foot of snow in some places.

The storm brought havoc to roadways, left more than 300,000 without power in Virginia and Maryland, and caused at least five deaths across three states.

No injuries or fatalities were reported in Virginia due to the storm or the traffic backup, state officials said Tuesday. 

On a roughly 50-mile stretch of I-95 near Fredericksburg, drivers were stuck in their cars overnight with ice blanketing the freeway. The Virginia Department of Transportation tweeted Tuesday that the stretch of the interstate remained closed.

On social media, people shared their experiences waiting out the jam as they sat for hours without moving. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said Tuesday morning he remained in the ongoing standstill for 19 hours on his way to D.C. Others said drivers were getting out of their cars and were worried about food.

Josh Lederman, a reporter with NBC News, tweeted that he was stuck in his car overnight and many motorists were turning off their cars to conserve gas.

“People (myself included) are taking exercise breaks outside their cars, walking their dogs on the interstate. I’ve been putting snow in his bowl and letting it melt into water,” he said in one tweet detailing the ordeal. 

Meera Rao and her husband, Raghavendra, were driving home from visiting their daughter in North Carolina when they got stuck Monday evening. They were only 100 feet past an exit but could not move for roughly 16 hours.

“Not one police (officer) came in the 16 hours we were stuck,” she said. “No one came. It was just shocking. Being in the most advanced country in the world, no one knew how to even clear one lane for all of us to get out of that mess?”

Downed trees and black ice remained major issues for much of the state Tuesday morning, said Corinne Geller, a spokesperson for the department.

Crews continued to treat patches of snow and ice with up to several inches of accumulation, added Marcie Parker, the department’s Fredericksburg District Engineer.

“We know many travelers have been stuck on Interstate 95 in our region for extraordinary periods of time over the past 24 hours, in some cases since Monday morning. This is unprecedented, and we continue to steadily move stopped trucks to make progress toward restoring lanes,” Parker said in statement.

Late Monday, the agency shared a photo of the traffic jam with the caption, “We wish we had a timetable, ETA or an educated guess on when travel will resume on I-95.”

State police responded to more than 1,000 traffic crashes and assisted more than 1,000 motorists, said Alena Yarmosky, spokesperson for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, in a statement.

“While sunlight is expected to help VDOT treat and clear roads, all Virginians must continue to avoid the interstate and follow directions of emergency personnel,” she added.

The winter storm blanketed parts of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Kentucky.

Schools across multiple states remained closed Tuesday, and some 260,000 customers in Virginia and 26,000 in Maryland were without power as of 11 a.m., according to the online tracker Poweroutage.us.

Snowfall totals in the Washington, D.C., area were around to half a foot to a foot, according to the National Weather Service.

More than 15 inches of snow fell in Huntingtown, Maryland, the highest total in the state, around 40 miles southeast of Washington. Glendie, just north of Fredericksburg, recorded more than 14 inches of snow, the highest total in Virginia, according to the Weather Service.

Five deaths were reported due to the weather. A 7-year-old girl died after heavy snow led to a tree falling on a home in Townsend, Tennessee, about 30 miles southeast of Knoxville, WVLT reported

A second child, a 5-year-old boy in Georgia, was killed after heavy rain and strong wind gusts caused a tree to fall on a home near Atlanta in DeKalb County, according to CBS 46

Three more people died when an SUV and snowplow collided in Montgomery County, Maryland, NBC reported.

In Washington, Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a snow emergency Monday and advised residents to stay home. President Joe Biden, who was returning to the White House from Delaware, had his helicopter grounded by snow and traveled by motorcade from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

Contributing: Doyle Rice and Christal Hayes, USA TODAY; The Associated Press



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