Drivers trapped for hours in cars after U.S. snowstorm shuts Virginia highway

By Katharine Jackson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Thousands of people were stranded in their vehicles for hours overnight along a nearly 50-mile (80-kilometer) stretch of Interstate 95 in Virginia after a storm dumped up to a foot (30 cm) of snow, officials said on Tuesday.

I-95, a major north-south thoroughfare on the East Coast, was closed in both directions near Fredricksburg, about 55 miles (89 km) south of Washington, the Virginia Department of Transportation said.

Social media was flooded with posts from desperate motorists trapped for hours in freezing weather, some of them without food or water and with their vehicles running out of fuel.

“We have been stuck here for 10+ hours we have dogs and have to go to the bathroom plus we need gas. No hotels around are open,” one driver tweeted.

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia was among those stranded, spending the night on the highway when his car became trapped while he was on his way to nearby Washington, D.C.

“I started my normal 2 hour drive to DC at 1pm yesterday. 19 hours later, I’m still not near the Capitol,” the 2016 Democratic vice presidential candidate tweeted early on Tuesday along with a photo from his car sandwiched between trucks.

“My office is in touch with @VaDOT to see how we can help other Virginians in this situation,” he said, referring to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The highway was closed for 47 miles (76 km), from Carmel Church to Dumfries, a distance that normally takes less than one hour to drive.

Aerial video from NBC showed hundreds of cars and trucks jammed on one side while most lanes of the interstate were closed to regular traffic and snow plows cleared the road.

State and local emergency personnel worked through the night to clear downed trees, assist disabled vehicles and reroute drivers, Governor Ralph Northam said on Tuesday.

“While sunlight is expected to help @VaDOT clear the road, all Virginians should continue to avoid 1-95,” he tweeted.

The standstill began on Monday as snow fell in parts of the U.S. Southeast and mid-Atlantic regions, causing multiple crashes and spin-outs, local media said. The highway paralysis persisted as temperatures dropped below freezing overnight.

The fast-moving storm forced the closure of federal offices and schools, grounded airplanes and knocked out electrical power for thousands of residents.

Local residents walk along an empty street during a snowstorm in Washington, U.S., January 3, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Source: /Reuters

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