FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (WRIC/WAVY) — Hundreds of cars were stranded on Interstate 95 near Fredericksburg Tuesday morning after getting stuck in Monday’s snowstorm. Some had been trapped since Monday afternoon, with kids and pets in the car and freezing temperatures outside.
As of 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, VDOT Fredericksburg officials tweeted there were no people stranded on I-95 and less than 20 vehicles left to be removed from the interstate before plow trains will come through to remove the snow and ice from travel lanes.
By 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, VDOT said all the disabled vehicles had been removed and I-95 was back open in both directions. However, travel remained hazardous throughout Stafford, Spotsylvania, and Caroline counties.
Those stranded included a Virginia Beach resident and even Sen. Tim Kaine, who said in a tweet Tuesday morning that he was still stuck on I-95 19 hours later. He has since made it to the Capitol.
Kaine tweeted at 10:30: “I’m frustrated, but not in serious trouble. If you are in trouble on Virginia roads today, call @VaDOT at 1-800-FOR-ROAD.”
He also said a Connecticut family traveling back from Florida handed out oranges overnight to trapped drivers.
The standstill first started around noon Monday when several tractor-trailers crashed on southbound I-95 in the area during inclement weather. No injuries were reported in connection to that initial crash.
VDOT said about 14 inches of snow fell in parts of the Fredericksburg region. Tuesday night, secondary roads and neighborhoods were mostly still in severe condition — meaning still covered in snow.
VDOT says snow plows and tow trucks were on the scene and crews worked to get the vehicles off the interstate at nearby interchanges.
“It kind of looked like one of those apocalyptic movies….there were tractor-trailer trucks that were turned sideways. There were cars that were just abandoned in the middle of the interstate,” said Virginia Beach resident Clyde Taylor.
Stafford County also declared a local state of emergency and opened a shelter at Stafford High School, 63 Stafford Indians Lane, Fredericksburg. The declaration lifts certain procurement laws to allow the county administrator to take necessary actions during the declaration. It also gives Stafford access to state mutual aid.
Chopper footage from NBC4 Washington on Tuesday morning showed many people were still stuck on southbound I-95, as many people had reported running out of gas.
“This is unprecedented, and we continue to steadily move stopped trucks to make progress toward restoring lanes,” VDOT Fredericksburg District Engineer Marcie Parker said in a statement. “In addition to clearing the trucks, we are treating for snow and several inches of ice that has accumulated around them to ensure that when the lanes reopen, motorists can safely proceed to their destination,” Parker said.
NBC4 Washington reported that William County firefighters were seen handing out blankets and water bottles Tuesday morning.
Dominion said nearly 400,000 customers across Virginia experienced a power outage since early Monday morning, making this one of the top five winter storms in Dominion Energy Virginia’s history. Areas around Charlottesville and Fredericksburg were also impacted by outages, where storm damages were the most severe.
“Many more customers will get their power restored today and the majority of customers will be restored by late Wednesday evening — with some outage restoration extending into Thursday,” Dominion said Tuesday afternoon.
More than a dozen people contacted WAVY sister station WRIC in desperation, saying this has been a nightmare with no sign of relief.
“Everybody right now is just sleeping it off,” said Marvin Romero, who has been stranded in his car with his two daughters since 3 p.m. Monday. “[We’ve been] waiting for the time when we can finally be free from this.”
A Virginia Beach resident named Andy who spoke with WAVY’s Katie Collett on Tuesday morning said he’s been stuck since 7:30 p.m. Monday night. He had essentials but was worried about others.
“I’m here with my daughter, my other daughter is in the back sleeping, this was totally unexpected,” Romero said. “Thankfully, we had some water. I actually walked around handing water out to people who may need the little I had myself.”
Drivers said as they waited, they were starving, freezing and worried about running out of gas before the traffic was cleared.
Truck driver Emily Clementson told NBC4 that people should ask truck drivers if they have extra supplies, such as snacks or water bottles. She said many truck drivers prepare in case they get stranded.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Clementson said.
Nina Semesta said she was afraid of running out of essentials.
“Right now, it’s below freezing. No easy access to gas, food or water and we can’t even exit the highway,” Semesta said.