A vicious and unrelenting snowstorm left hundreds of drivers stranded without food or water on a highway for more than 20 hours in freezing temperatures on Interstate 95 in Virginia.
The severe snowstorm struck earlier this week and left motorists trapped and isolated for over 20 hours from Monday into Tuesday afternoon while crews worked tirelessly to clear the path. Metro reports that the Virginia Department of Transportation announced that a 50-mile stretch of the interstate was impossible to navigate due to the sheer number of disabled trucks blocking the path.
Amongst the many stranded was Virginia Senator Tim Kaine who was stuck in the snowy and icy conditions for over 19 hours. Kaine tweeted, “I started my normal two-hour drive to DC at 1 pm yesterday. And 19 hours later, I’m still not near the Capitol.” Kaine wasn’t alone. Hundreds of other drivers suffered similar experiences. Authorities explained that a multitude of other secondary roads in the region was also hit by the wintery conditions and downed trees.
According to the National Weather Service, about 7 to 11 inches of snow had fallen in the area, and state police warned people to stay off the road unless absolutely necessary. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam was responsible for overseeing a concentrated effort to mitigate the worst effects of the storm. He sent out emergency messages to stranded drivers to reassure them they were not alone and co-operated with local officials to set up warming shelters.
Governor Northam told radio station WTOP during the crisis, “Right now, things aren’t moving as you know and as you can see on the cameras. We need to get the cars and the trucks off the roads. We need to keep people safe, and then we need to clear them.” Crews worked through the night to remove stationary trucks, plow paths through the snow, de-ice roads, and help guide stranded motorists to the nearest exits along the East Coast’s main north-south highway.
Reuters reports that Northam and the Virginia Department came under fire for not calling in the National Guard. One Twitter user who was stuck on 1-95 for hours, tweeted, “This is insane. Nothing is being done, 911 isn’t much help, neither is Virginia state police. And the state has yet to contact National Guard. Insane.” Northam told WTOP radio that although the National Guard was available, he didn’t believe their mobilization was warranted.