Winter Storm Strands Motorists on Virginia Interstate Overnight

by Liz Holland
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

An icy stretch of I-95 in Virginia has stranded drivers for several hours. Some drivers have been stuck overnight. 

A severe winter storm is leaving authorities struggling to clear the area. Bumper-to-bumper vehicles are unable to move amidst the ice and slush. A particular 50 mile stretch in the Fredericksburg area, between Richmond, VA and Washington D.C. is holding the vehicles hostage. The area received an estimated 14 inches of snow from the storm. The Virginia Department of Transportation says disabled trucks are part of the reason for the stopped traffic. Many are blocking the roadway due to the icy conditions.

One stranded passenger is US Senator Tim Kaine. Around 8:30 Tuesday morning, Kaine says he was still on the road in his vehicle. His typical two-hour journey has now become 19 hours long.

Due to collapsed trees and winter weather conditions, many secondary roads near the highway are also unusable. Kaine tweeted a photo from the driver’s seat of his vehicle, showing three semi-trucks in front of him. The tweet reads, “I started my normal 2 hour drive to DC at 1pm yesterday. 19 hours later, I’m still not near the Capitol. My office is in touch with @VaDOT to see how we can help other Virginians in this situation. Please stay safe everyone.”

Stranded Drivers Offer Each Other Helping Hands

Kaine added that a Connecticut family handed out oranges in the middle of the night to fellow passengers. He directed any passengers stuck in the traffic that are in serious trouble to contact the VA Department of Transportation (VDOT) directly. He provided a 1-800 number to do so.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam shared via Twitter that an emergency message will be sent out to all stranded drivers to put them into contact with support. He added that emergency personnel are clearing downed trees, helping disabled vehicles, and redirecting drivers. The tweet also states the state is “working with localities to open warming shelters as needed.”

Marcie Parker, VDOT Fredericksburg engineer said in a statement, “This is unprecedented, and we continue to steadily move stopped trucks to make progress toward restoring lanes.”

DOT is Working Diligently On the Situation

A spokesperson for the VDOT Fredericksburg District, Kelly Hannon shared some insight on the situation with CNN

“We know people have been stopped for extraordinary time periods leading up to these closure areas, but we are clearing trucks one by one to break through this blockage, and we will get to each driver and restore traffic flow,” she says. Hannon continues, “Crews continue to work intensely to tow vehicles that are stuck and blocking the interstate near mile markers 136 in Stafford County, and then plow and treat the interstate to prevent follow-on crashes. This is also occurring where traffic remains stopped on Interstate 95 northbound at mile marker 117 in Spotsylvania County.”

A power outage hindered some of VDOT’s efforts as it knocked out some of the highway’s traffic cameras near the affected area. The snow could take weeks to melt.