Hundreds of drivers found themselves stranded on Interstate-95 on Monday as a snowstorm hit Virginia, including Senator Tim Kaine (D., Va.), who was stuck on the interstate for nearly 27 hours.
“We have been just moving at a snail’s pace, and there have been at least a couple of times where traffic on the interstate, black ice, when the snow was slushy, and remelted last night, it was very icy,” Kaine told CNN on Tuesday. “Entire traffic was stopped for five or six hours at a time, and so, you know, we would get out and visit with folks in the cars nearby. I’m driving myself, but other cars are packed with kids or senior citizens, folks coming back from vacations. There was some nice camaraderie, even during a very miserable and extremely cold evening.”
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. pic.twitter.com/Sz1b1hZJZ5
— Tim Kaine (@timkaine) January 4, 2022
The senator told CNN he had departed from Richmond, Virginia at 1 p.m. Eastern Time on Monday on his way to the Capitol for a voting rights meeting. He had only eaten one orange since Sunday night, he said, adding that he tried to conserve gas by turning the heat in his car on full blast for 10 minutes, then turning the engine off and trying to sleep fo 20 to 30 minutes at a time.
Just after 4 p.m., reports indicated that Kaine had finally reached the Capitol.
Meanwhile, Virginia State Police twitter account announced just after 2 p.m. on Tuesday that it was making “slow but steady progress” and that police and Virginia Department of Transportation crews were continuing “nonstop efforts to safely free stranded motorists & clear abandoned vehicles thru the 40-mile stretch of I-95.”
Slow but steady progress at the I-95 109 mm emergency crossover in #Caroline Co. being made with getting traffic moving again. #VSP & @VaDOTFRED crews continue our nonstop efforts to safely free stranded motorists & clear abandoned vehicles thru the 40-mile stretch of I-95. @VDEM pic.twitter.com/AmqcWCmLfV
— VA State Police (@VSPPIO) January 4, 2022
VDOT Fredricksburg said in a tweet one hour later: “We’re making significant headway to remove disabled vehicles, & tractor trailers from I-95 then plow trains will come through to remove snow and ice. I-95 NB still closed between exit 104/Rt. 207 in Caroline to PW. I-95 southbound is closed at exit 152 to exit 136/Centreport Pkwy.”
VDOT estimates that I-95 will be cleared of vehicles some time today ahead of tomorrow morning’s rush hour, said Marcie Parker, district engineer for VDOT Fredericksburg District, according to CNN.
Parker said officials realized around 4 a.m. Eastern time on Tuesday that they would only be able to remove disabled vehicles by shutting down the interstate. Officials then closed a 50-mile stretch of road from Exit 104 to Exit 152.
There was up to four inches of ice under some vehicles as stranded drivers waited out the chaos in their cars in freezing temperatures for hours.
The district engineer said the department did not consider closing the interstate ahead of the storm and that the amount of snow and the rate at which it fell caught officials by surprise. She explained that roads were not pre-treated because the storm began with rain that would have washed the treatment away.
Once the roads are cleared, officials plan to assess what happened and make adjustments to future plans.