In Virginia, the United States, huge lines formed on Interstate 95 after a storm dumped up to a foot of snow and forced the roadway to close. Some motorists were stranded for hours without food or drink.
Thousands of commuters were stuck in their cars along a roughly 50-mile stretch of road for up to 20 hours as a result of a heavy snowstorm on Saturday.
Authorities in Virginia, United States, claimed on Tuesday that massive lines had formed on I-95 following a blizzard that dumped up to a foot of snow and forced the route to be closed.
Desperate motorists stranded for hours in subzero temperatures, some of whom were without food or water and whose vehicles had run out of fuel, took to social media to express their plight and appeal for help.
“I’m going on 15 hours with two dogs in the car. Stuck at Woodford, VA and not moving,” one driver tweeted.
Among those left stranded was U.S. Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, who was forced to spend the night on Interstate 95 after his vehicle became stuck on his route to Washington.
“I started my normal 2 hour drive to DC at 1pm yesterday. 19 hours later, I’m still not near the Capitol,” Kaine tweeted early on Tuesday along with a photo from his car sandwiched between trucks.
The Virginia Department of Transportation said that I-95, a key north-south artery on the East Coast, was closed in both directions near Fredricksburg, roughly 55 miles south of Washington.
Traffic on the 47-mile stretch of highway came to a complete stop at 8 p.m. on Monday and continued to be stalled until late in the morning on Tuesday morning.
The drive should take no more than an hour in most circumstances.
While most lanes of I-95 were blocked to ordinary traffic and snowploughs cleared the road, aerial imagery from Washington television station WRC showed hundreds of automobiles and trucks backed up on one side.
Emergency personnel from the state and local governments worked through the night to clear downed trees, assist disabled vehicles, and reroute motorists, according to Governor Ralph Northam in an interview with WTOP radio station on Tuesday.
“With the sun up now, that will certainly help us, but we need to get people off the road. We have food, warming shelters in place, and we’re getting to these individuals as fast as we can,” he said.
However, state officials, notably Governor Northam and the Virginia Department of Transportation, have come under fire for the state’s response and failure to send in the National Guard in the wake of the storm.
Some have called on President Joe Biden to mobilize federal forces to rescue stranded motorists and restart the interstate transportation system.
“This is insane. Nothing is being done, 911 isn’t much help, neither is Virginia state police. And the state has yet to
contact National Guard. Insane,” wrote one Twitter user who claimed to have been stuck on I-95 south for hours.
Northam told WTOP that the National Guard was ready to assist, but that it had not yet been activated by the state.
The United States Department of Transportation released a message on Twitter indicating it was prepared to assist the state in reopening the highway and assisting drivers.
Volunteers were pitching in wherever they could to assist.
“Reply with need AND MILE MARKER and we’ll try to connect you to other drivers in your area who might be able to share some supplies with you,” tweeted Reagan Battalion, a conservative political organisation.
Another volunteer effort involved handing away Schmidt Old Tyme bread after the business consented to open one of its trucks that had become stalled on the road, according to a local CBS reporter who was caught up in the congestion.
The heavy snow, which fell in sections of the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states, caused wrecks and spin-outs on the I-95, which effectively shut down that segment of the roadway for many hours.
The halt remained overnight as temperatures fell below freezing.
The fast-moving storm led to the closure of federal offices and schools, grounded airplanes, and knocked out electrical power to thousands of people across the United States and Canada.
Image Credit: Reuters