WASHINGTON - Hundreds of drivers stranded on I-95 in Virginia were freed on Tuesday after a large snowstorm hit the D.C. area a day earlier. Drivers were stuck in their cars for hours on I-95 in the Fredericksburg, Virginia area for nearly 24 hours, FOX5 DC reported.
Problems began Monday morning when a truck jackknifed on Interstate 95, the main north-south highway along the East Coast, triggering a chain reaction as other cars lost control, state police said. Lanes in both directions became blocked across a 40-mile stretch of I-95 north of Richmond. As hours passed and night fell, drivers posted messages on social media about running out of fuel, food and water.
Both directions of traffic on I-95 came to a standstill Monday between Ruther Glen, Virginia, in Caroline County and exit 152 in Dumfries, Prince William County, the Virginia Department of Transportation said, after an accident and the winter weather kicked in.
Some drivers expressed their frustrations with FOX5 DC explaining that they had feelings of hopelessness as they remained stranded in place overnight.
"I left about 11 p.m. last night to go help some family in Fredericksburg who lost power and little did I know on the way there, there would be a traffic jam," one driver said. "I was in that traffic jam for about 12 ½ hours before I finally got out. It looked like state troopers started to redirecting traffic off of the highway."
"It was a standstill for about 10 hours straight, we did not move. I had to shut off the car from time to time and turn it back on just to keep myself warm. There were a lot of people hopping in and out of the car trying to get food and go to the bathroom, it was pretty terrible." He added "A lot of people were sleeping in their cars. I was with a family member who was also sleeping in the car. We were just in there for a very long time we didn’t know what was going on. We went on social media and apparently there were multiple reports of pileups and traffic jams, and we just really weren’t sure what was going on. And there were people in their cars even longer than us."
"I've been stuck here since yesterday. I've been stuck here all night. I had to walk 20 minutes to find supplies. Pretty much I can't feel my toes. Right now they're giving out water to people, but that's not enough, we're just waiting," one driver said.
"I've been here since 6 p.m. yesterday. I have a tractor-trailer, and I'm running out of gas. It's freezing out here, and it's a total standstill," another driver said.
Dozens of vehicles are seen stranded on I-95 in Virginia Tuesday morning.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said his team responded through the night alongside state police, transportation and emergency management officials.
Northam said his team responded through the night by sending emergency messages to connect drivers with help and working with local officials to set up warming shelters as needed. Officials told reporters crews were helping distribute food, water and fuel.
By 9 a.m. Tuesday, a single lane of traffic was creeping forward between many stalled trucks and cars in one direction.
Crews were working to tow the stopped trucks and to remove snow and ice while guiding stranded motorists to the nearest exits, transportation officials said.
The governor said he could not provide an estimate for when I-95 would reopen or how many vehicles remained stranded. Transportation Department engineer Marcie Parker said the agency expected to finish clearing the interstate by Tuesday night and that it should be open for the Wednesday morning rush hour.
Northam said in an interview that he chose not to request National Guard help because the issue facing Virginia crews was not a lack of manpower but the difficulty of getting workers and equipment through the snow and ice to where they needed to be. He said that effort was complicated by the disabled vehicles, freezing temperatures and ice.
Up to 11 inches of snow fell in the area during Monday’s blizzard, according to the National Weather Service, and state police had warned people to avoid driving unless absolutely necessary, especially as colder nighttime temperatures set in.
Thousands of accidents and stranded vehicles were reported throughout central and northern Virginia. As of 3:30 p.m. Monday, Virginia State Police said troopers had responded to more than 2,000 calls for service due to treacherous road conditions.
In Prince William County, Virginia, emergency crews responded Tuesday to 10 calls from motorists, including complaints about hypothermia and diabetics concerned about a prolonged lack of food, said Matt Smolsky, assistant fire chief. None of the calls were life-threatening, but four patients were transported.
Traffic cameras went offline as much of central Virginia lost power in the storm, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). Over 281,000 customers remained without electricity on Tuesday, according to poweroutage.us.
The Associated Press and FOX5 DC contributed to this story
This story was reported from Washington, D.C.