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Virginia officials defend response to drivers getting stuck on I-95

Jan 04, 2022


Update (Jan. 5, 2022): Virginia officials defended their response to the hundreds of drivers who were stuck for hours on Interstate 95 for hours due to snow and ice Monday and Tuesday. It took until around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday for the Virginia Department of Transportation to announce it had reopened I-95 after crews ensured all stranded drivers made it off the highway, cleared abandoned vehicles and plowed the affected stretch of interstate. The video above shows I-95 once traffic began moving again.

Specifically, Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA) defended his decision not to activate the Virginia National Guard or declare a state of emergency. He said a state of emergency, typically declared hours or days before an event to create extra flexibility in responding, would have done no good.

“We all need to be clear that this was an incredibly unusual event,” Gov. Ralph Northam said at a news conference. He added that he understood drivers’ “frustration and fear.”

Original Story (Jan. 4, 2022): Hundreds of drivers spent their overnight hours Tuesday stuck on a 50-mile stretch of Interstate 95 in Virginia in freezing temperatures due to ice and snow. The video above shows various scenes from the freeway Tuesday, including video shot by former State Department senior advisor Susan Phalen, who documented her time on the freeway on her Twitter account.

“Just drove out of a fresh level of Hell where cell and internet don’t connect just north of Stafford,” Phalen said in her latest tweet as of 11:00 a.m. EST. “It has taken me 13 hours to go 13 miles. Still rolling slowly northbound.”

According to Virginia state police spokeswoman Corinne Geller, the drivers got stuck after a tractor-trailer jackknifed in the ice and snow. This caused a chain reaction of other commercial vehicles losing control and becoming disabled in the traffic lanes. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) said crews were working to remove stopped trucks, plow snow, de-ice the roadway and guide the stuck drivers to the nearest exits.

“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,” VDOT district engineer Marcie Parker said in a news release. “This is unprecedented.”

On Twitter, Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA) added that his team “has been working throughout the night… to clear downed trees, assist disabled vehicles, and re-route drivers.”

“An emergency message is going to all stranded drivers connecting them to support, and the state is working with localities to open warming shelters as needed,” Gov. Northam said in an ensuing tweet.

According to the National Weather Service, between 7 to 11 inches of snow accumulated in the area where the drivers got stuck during Monday’s blizzards. Thousands of accidents and stranded vehicles were reported throughout central and northern Virginia.

“Road conditions on many primary and high-volume secondary roads remain snow-covered and blocked by downed trees,” VDOT said in the release. “VDOT crews will continue in emergency response 24 hours a day until all roads are passable.”