Drivers Have Been Stuck on a Frozen Highway for More Than 24 Hours

Sitting in their cars since Monday afternoon in below-freezing temperatures, drivers are starting to worry about running out of gas and supplies.
A stock image of cars in snow.
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People have been stranded on a Virginia interstate for almost 24 hours after a blizzard, and many are still there as of Tuesday morning. 

Six tractor trailers crashed along the I-95 roadway on Monday afternoon, according to the Associated Press, and the foot of snow that fell in some places, plus ice on the roads, made it nearly impossible to clear the path for traffic to get through. About 400,000 people lost power in Fredericksburg, Virginia, near the backup, making it even harder for transportation authorities to reach people.

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I-95 has been stalled in both directions from Ruther Glen, Virginia, in Caroline County and Dumfries in Prince William County, a 50-mile stretch. Some drivers reported on Twitter this morning that they’re moving again northbound, but southbound lanes still seem stuck. Last night, Fredericksburg, a town at the midpoint of the backup, saw a low of 14 degrees, and drivers are worried that gas, water, and food—if they have those supplies at all—are running out. 

Drivers stuck in the backup are tweeting from their cars: One driver said he’s been there for 20 hours: 

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine tweeted that he’d started his commute to DC at 1 p.m. on Monday, which usually takes two hours. He was still sitting on I-95 late Tuesday morning:

Jim DeFede, a reporter from Miami, said he’s also still sitting there as of 45 minutes ago. He’s been in the car for almost 24 hours as of 10 a.m. Tuesday, he said, and just received a notification on his phone that said, “State & locals are coming ASAP with supplies and to move you,” with a link to the Virginia Department of Transportation website.     

VDOT Fredericksburg District Engineer Marcie Parker said in a statement put out by VDOT this morning: “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. In addition to clearing the trucks, we are treating for snow and several inches of ice that has accumulated around them to ensure that when the lanes reopen, motorists can safely proceed to their destination.” 

Interstate 95 is the primary thoroughfare for the Eastern seaboard, running from Maine to Florida. The Virginia portion of I-95 is 179 miles of cursed asphalt concrete starting just outside of Washington, D.C., running south to the North Carolina border. Everyone thinks that their own commute sucks in a special way, but I-95 in Virginia actually, really sucks: it passes through one of the most densely populated areas of the country, and a traffic analytics company found it to be one of the worst traffic hotspots in the nation. Transit authorities have been trying to figure out how to fix the horrendous traffic on this stretch of I-95 for years.

As of this morning, Virginia governor Ralph Northam said that his office was working to open warming centers for people to get a reprieve from the below-freezing temperatures. “This has been a difficult night for a lot of folks. I’m very sorry that people have been stranded. We’re doing everything we can to get to these individuals, whether it be [giving them] water or a place to be warm,” Northam said Tuesday morning, according to NBC4 in Washington

Virginia State Police, the Virginia Department of Transportation, and other officials are working “nonstop” to help, he said, but that the National Guard was not needed yet. “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,” Northam said.