For more than 24 hours, hundreds of drivers in Northern Virginia were stuck on a 50-mile-long portion of Interstate 95 (I-95) in Stafford County after a record of 14.1-inch snowfall. The nightmare finally came to an end on Tuesday afternoon when emergency crews were able to free the last of the trapped drivers. 

Even after the roadways were cleared, the Virginia Department of Transportation is still issuing warnings about potentially slick roadway conditions and is urging drivers to “avoid unnecessary travel overnight and on Wednesday morning.” 

Marcie Parker, Department of Transportation district engineer, said that after it started to snow on non-pretreated roads, it “was entirely too much for us to keep up with…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.” 

Despite many being extremely concerned about accessing basic necessities like food, water, and sanitation services, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam “resisted calls from social media users, including TV personality and author Meghan McCain, to deploy the National Guard. ‘They’re available, and they do a wonderful job. We have the resources we need right now, we just need to be able to get them where they need to be,’” said Northam, NBC reports. 

Local ABC affiliate spoke with some of the drivers and passengers stranded overnight on I-95. One account described the scene as “[a]bandoned cars everywhere, there were trucks on the side of the road, people were at one point getting up and leaving their cars, bringing their backpacks with them…We had to alternate between turning the car on and off, making sure we didn’t freeze, making sure our battery was running, nothing was idle, the exhaust pipe was OK.” 

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Another driver also described how the pandemic compounded the situation—“Then we’re in the middle of Covid…How do you walk up to a random house and say, ‘Can we use your bathroom? By the way, can you take a PCR test?’” 

Even Virginia Senator Tim Kaine got stuck in the melee, posting to Twitter that he was stuck for 27 hours trying to get from Richmond up to the Capitol to work on legislation around voting rights.

Sen. Kaine spoke with reporters after his trying journey, stating it was “probably a good infrastructure story. Generally, we’re just not as big investors and infrastructure as we should be.” Monday’s snowstorm triggered a loss of power for hundreds of thousands of North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, and Maryland residents, and caused “the deaths of at least five people.”

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