A Monday storm that delivered more than a foot of snow to wide swaths of the Washington area shut down a roughly 40-mile section of Interstate 95, as a spate of accidents made the road impassable. With traffic ground to a halt in the area, near Fredericksburg, Virginia, drivers were trapped in their cars overnight in below-freezing temperatures.
The Virginia Department of Transportation, which is not accustomed to blizzards, said that it has made progress on Tuesday in clearing out disabled cars. A little before 6 p.m., the department announced there were no longer any drivers stuck. But CNN reported earlier on Tuesday afternoon that some motorists were still on the highway, little closer to their original destinations.
During their interminable wait, drivers have not had access to food or water beyond what was already in their cars when they set out. What they did have, beyond an infinite array of podcasts to sample, were a few journalists in their midst, who helped publicize their plight to the outside world.
NBC News White House correspondent Josh Lederman described being stuck overnight on I-95 North, saying plows and emergency vehicles were scarce. “Around the five-hour mark, it felt like it shifted from really inconvenient to a little scary,” he said. Lederman later reported that traffic was moving after 11 hours, but that the south side of the highway was still backed up for miles.
Jim Defede, a reporter at Miami’s CBS News 4, said in a video that he had been stuck overnight, and hadn’t seen a state trooper in 12 hours. In a subsequent video, he said he had been in the same spot for “at least 17, almost 18 hours.” He said he had received an alert from the state’s Department of Transportation telling drivers that they soon be moved and provided with supplies, but that “I am not reassured by this message.”
There was at least one boldfaced name stuck along with everyone else. On Tuesday morning, Virginia senator Tim Kaine tweeted that he had been stuck on the highway for a mind-boggling 19 hours, later amending that to an even more mind-boggling 21 hours. Somehow, after all that time, he managed to put forth a reasonable message and not simply type, “All work and no play makes Tim a dull boy.”
Kaine finally began moving again on Tuesday afternoon, and arrived at his destination, the Capitol, beaten but unbowed.
Thankfully, there have been no reports of medical emergencies among the stranded thus far.