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Drivers share I-95 nightmare stories: 'Stranded cars everywhere'

Posted at 1:50 PM, Jan 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-04 13:57:02-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Traffic began to slowly creep forward Tuesday after hundreds of drivers spent the night stranded in their cars on Interstate 95 in Virginia after tractor-trailers jackknifed Monday in a winter storm.

“We've been between mile markers 104 and 115 since about 1:30 [Monday],” Jonathan Harton, from Albany, New York, said via phone on Tuesday. “We cannot see anything. We see cars and trucks."

The disabled trucks triggered a chain reaction Monday as other vehicles lost control and blocked lanes in both directions of Interstate 95. As hours passed and night fell, motorists posted messages on social media about running out of fuel, food, and water. Many, like Harton, were left trapped in their cars in below-freezing temperatures overnight.

“It's been over 35 years since I've slept in a car," he said.

Sarah Lynch and her husband Cary, of Beaufort, South Carolina, were stuck in traffic since 9 p.m. Monday.

“There's not been any kind of policeman or fire rescue or tow truck or snowplow," Lynch said. "What if someone had a heart attack? What if they're little babies?”

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At about 9 a.m. Tuesday, Lynch said they were able to move forward for the first time in 12 hours.

"It is literally a sheet of ice. I mean, we're just like skipping along here," she said. “There's going to be stranded cars everywhere."

By 9 a.m., a single lane of traffic was creeping forward between many stalled trucks and cars in one direction, while people could be seen walking down traffic lanes still covered with ice and snow. Crews were working to remove stopped trucks, plow snow, de-ice the pavement and guide stranded motorists to the nearest exits, transportation officials said.

Gov. Ralph Northam said his team responded through the night, sending out emergency messages to connect stranded drivers with help and working with local officials to set up warming shelters as needed. He could not say when the situation would be resolved.

“Right now, things aren’t moving, as you know, and as you can see on the cameras,” Northam told radio station WTOP Tuesday morning.

The governor said he was not aware of any serious injuries that resulted from the mess.

People who were stranded overnight and their families lashed out at Northam on Twitter, asking why the National Guard was not deployed to rescue stranded motorists or offer them food or other assistance.

The governor said the National Guard was “available” but he had not yet called upon Guard members to help.

Seven 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.

Compounding the challenges, traffic cameras went offline as much of central Virginia lost power in the storm, the transportation department said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.