More than 250,00 people are without power after a winter storm struck Virginia, stranding motorists and causing at least five deaths.
In Central and Northern Virginia, more than 160,000 customers of Dominion Power were in the dark Monday night thanks to heavy snows in the area. Outages spread over the course of Monday, according to WRIC. The highest number of outages happened in the rural counties west of Richmond.
Meanwhile, thousands to tens of thousands of customers of Northern Neck Electric Cooperative, Southside Electric Cooperative and Rappahannock Electric Cooperative are also without power. The latter company estimated it would take days to fully restore power. Crews are hurrying to repair the damage from heavy snow and high winds. That includes mutual aid crews from other electric cooperatives across the country.
After Winter Storm, Drivers Stuck on I-95 Overnight
The storm was so bad that drivers on a 50-mile stretch of I-95 outside Fredericksburg got stuck there overnight last night, USA Today reports. The freeway was slick with ice. And at 5 a.m. Tuesday, the Virginia Department of Transportation announced that that part of the road remained closed.
An NBC reporter, Josh Lederman, was among those stuck on the freeway Monday night. He tweeted about the experience while stranded. Lederman said that people were running out of gas or abandoning their cars, while others took exercise breaks and walked their dogs up and down the interstate.
“For the last 7+ hours, I’ve been stuck in my car, not moving, in a total shutdown of I-95 northbound about 30 miles south of DC,” Lederman posted amid the winter storm. “Around the 5-hour mark, it felt like it shifted from really inconvenient to a little scary. Folks started turning their cars off, conserving gas, while we wait. It’s 27 degrees outside. There is no way for medical or emergency personnel to reach people stuck in this.”
Drivers Should Always Keep Emergency Provisions in Car
After 11 hours, northbound traffic on I-95 finally began moving again. But southbound traffic remained stuck. Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for the DOT, told USA Today there were no reported crashes on the affected stretch of I-95 during that time.
“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,” Fredericksburg District Engineer Marcie Parker said in statement.
Elsewhere in Virginia, authorities responded to more than 1,000 traffic crashes amid the winter storm.
As Lederman acknowledged in a tweet, the incident on I-95 should serve as a cautionary tale to motorists. Always carry emergency provisions in the car – for you, and for any animals who may be along for the ride.