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Stranded on I-95: Travelers share survival stories

Winter Weather Interstate Shutdown One Family
Posted at 6:53 PM, Jan 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-10 11:18:22-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- As the hours stretched into days, travelers stranded on Interstate 95 in Virginia had to rely on themselves and those stuck around them to survive.

“This is definitely the worst traffic I’ve ever been in," John McCool said.

McCool, who was traveling north on I-95 from North Carolina, said despite the miserable circumstances, he and his husband Jean-Francois Hould tried to remain in high spirits.

“We’re trying to make the best of it," McCool said with a laugh. "We watched an episode of Real Housewives Salt Lake City.”

The laughs disguised a horrifying reality for them and thousands of drivers stuck between Central Virginia and Washington D.C.

Police said part of Interstate 95 became impassable when tractor-trailers jackknifed in a winter storm on Monday morning. The disabled trucks triggered a chain reaction as other vehicles lost control and blocked lanes in both directions of I-95.

Scarlett Bickerton became trapped near Caroline County while driving home to D.C. from Florida with her dog.

"She was my little buddy all throughout this chaos," Bickerton said. "I was running out of gas and it was a lot of anxiety."

Fourteen hours later and after sleeping in her car, Bickerton was finally able to pull off at an exit as crews shut down the interstate for snow cleanup.

"I had a bag of pretzels that I rationed and I shared with my dog," Bickerton said.

Tony Zeke said he was unlucky as well. He spent the night on I-95 while traveling from Florida to Pennsylvania.

"This is a hell of a way to start 2022," Zeke said.

He said he saw people who were getting cold also running out of food, water and gas.

"You've got people walking up the highway, passing out water," Zeke said. "People shared and were trying to keep people comfortable."

As hours passed and night fell, drivers posted messages on social media about running out of fuel, food, and water.

“We ran out of water, so we’ve been melting some of the snow," McCool said.

Jean Gathet, who is from Chesterfield, was stuck on I-95 in Woodbridge for eight hours in the middle of the night.

Gathet is a truck driver and was able to endure a long time on the road.

“I’m used to being stopped for long periods of time," he said.

His truck has a bed, a fridge and a microwave. He was able to give back to other drivers nearby by making breakfast and sharing juice.

“He was really thankful," Gathet said.

Emily Miles, who was traveling to Virginia Beach, said she just wanted to be home.

“I have some kind of condition and I needed to get off to be able to take care of it," she said. “I’m hoping I'm able to make it through. I hope this doesn't last much longer.”

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

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