Miles of Virginia’s stretch of Interstate 95, a major East Coast artery that’s often a traffic nightmare in good weather, froze in place for nearly a full day after a blistering snowstorm swept through the region Monday.
Authorities say that snowfall and fallen trees caused huge delays, trapping many vehicles for hours in northern parts of the state.
“We were unable before to treat our roadways, and this is because of the rain. The rain would have washed all of our chemicals and salt off the roads and provided no additional protection,” said Stephen Birch, the state’s commissioner of highways, during an afternoon news briefing.
VIRGINIA I-95 WINTER STORM DISASTER LEAVES HUNDREDS STRANDED: ‘THIS IS UNPRECEDENTED’
Still, despite the traffic nightmare, state police said they’d received no reports of deaths, injuries or major accidents on the affected stretch of the I-95 as of 4:45 p.m. ET Tuesday.
Governor. Ralph Northam stated that state troopers and other first responders were making their way down the highway, giving out food and blankets as well as other assistance.
He said several dozen vehicles remained stuck — but they were empty.
“There are probably 50-60 vehicles out there. And at this point, each vehicle has been inspected,” he stated. “The ones that are still out there have been abandoned.”
Two hours later, transportation officials reported that the number stranded vehicles had dropped down to “less than twenty” and that plows would soon clear all the snow and other ice.
DRIVERS TRAPPED VIRGINIA INTESTATE AS TEMPERATURES DROPED DURING THE OVERNIGHT
Trouble began Monday with the “unprecedented” storm that swept through. For most of Tuesday, Virginia’s Department of Transportation said it was detouring drivers off the I-95 between Caroline and Prince William Counties in the northern part of the state. It was shut down for close to 50 exits between 152-104.
Northam advised motorists to avoid the highway. Local authorities also urged people not to travel to alleviate congestion.
Some people claimed that they were trapped for hours. Virginia Senator Tim Kaine tweeted that he was stuck for 27 hours as he traveled the 110 miles between Richmond, Virginia, and Washington.
One stranded motorist told Fox News’ John Roberts that trapped travelers were freely using the embankment along the side of the road to relieve themselves.
VIRGINIA SEN.TIM KAINE AMONG THOSE STANDED IN I-95 Winter Storm DISASTER
Photos and videos from social media show the chaos that travelers had to face. Many had snow still on the roads. Some had cars stuck on shoulders — or even in the middle lanes.
Tricia Kinder set out from her home in Midlothian, Virginia, on Monday afternoon for Baltimore, where she had a Tuesday morning doctor’s appointment at Johns Hopkins.
Fox News Digital’s She said that it was almost 70 degrees the previous day. “So I thought, well truly whatever accumulations we’re going to get, what’s the likelihood that it’s going to stick?”
Even though she had left a day earlier than her husband, she said she was forced to turn around because of the severe weather. They made it to the interstate around exit 104. Then they tried side roads through Fredericksburg before turning back after sunset.
She stated that she saw very few plows between Fredericksburg, Ashland, and Fredericksburg on both I-95 back roads and I-95.
Kinder stated, “It looked like there was a warzone going through some areas.” “It’s a major interstate, there’s really no reason why VDOT shouldn’t have been out.”
According to the National Weather Service in Northern Virginia, some areas saw as much as 10 inches.
Kinder said that she and her husband drove down a section of interstate that was closed by authorities but she did not see any warnings or signage after she turned around. There was no traffic, but she said she saw tractor trailers and other vehicles for miles.
“I’m really disappointed in the Virginia Department of Transportation for letting down some of their more vulnerable road users last night,” a long-haul trucker, Matthew Marchand, told Fox News Digital. “I took time to check on other truck drivers last night, as my primary responsibility is keeping myself safe, but keeping others safe it definitely is No. 2. After that, moving freight is easy.”
Marchand posted his story on Twitter. He claimed that he met a Tesla driver who was concerned about running out power in the sub-zero temperatures Monday night. He gave him a blanket. Children trapped in another vehicle built a snowman along the side of Highway 1.
He added that the long delay to clear the interstate was “nothing short of incompetence” in a separate tweet.
Other drivers criticized the state’s preparedness and blasted Richmond’s budgeting for snow removal.
Transportation authorities did not immediately respond to questions about how much this week’s I-95 cleanup would cost compared to that of a typical winter.
Fox News’ Maria Lencki contributed to this report.
Source: Fox News