According to the Virginia Department of Transportation, traffic was stopped in both directions on I-95 Monday, between Ruther Glen in Virginia in Caroline County and exit152 in Dumfries Prince William County. The agency tweeted at around noon on Tuesday that they would be starting to take people off at every interchange available.
Gov. Ralph Northam stated that his team was there to help drivers who were stuck and worked with local officials to create warming shelters. Although he said that the National Guard was available, he had not yet called on members. He couldn't even say when it would be resolved.
Northam stated Tuesday morning that "right now, things don't move as you know and can see on the cameras," WTOP radio station WTOP said. "We must remove the trucks and cars from the roads. First, we must keep people safe. Then, we must clear them.
According to the transportation agency, crews were busy clearing out stopped trucks and plow snow on the roads. They also helped guide motorists to the closest exits on the U.S. East Coast's main north/south highway. A single lane of traffic was visible moving in the opposite direction between many stalled cars and trucks, with people walking on roads still covered in ice and snow.
We know that many travelers have been stuck on Interstate 95 for unusual periods of time in our region over the past 24hrs, some even since Monday morning. This is unprecedented. We continue to move the stopped trucks to make progress towards restoring lanes. We are clearing trucks and treating snow and several inches of ice around them so that motorists can safely travel to their destinations once lanes reopen," Marcie Parker, Fredericksburg District engineer for the agency, said.
According to Corinne Geller, a state police spokesperson, the impasse started when a tractor-trailer collided with the ice and snow. This caused a chain reaction that saw other commercial vehicles lose control and become disabled in traffic lanes. As the night fell and hours passed, motorists shared desperate messages on social networks about running out fuel, food, and water.
According to the National Weather Service and the state police, between 7 and 11 inches of snow were accumulated in the region during Monday's blizzard. People were advised not to drive unless absolutely necessary, particularly as temperatures drop into the evening.
In central and northern Virginia, there were thousands of reported accidents and stranded cars. According to Virginia State Police, troopers responded to over 2,000 calls regarding service because of treacherous roads as of Monday 3:30 PM.
VDOT stated that traffic cameras were also offline after central Virginia lost power during the storm. According to poweroutage.us, more than 281,000 customers were still without electricity Tuesday.
Truck driver Emily Clementson told NBC Washington that she had never seen anything similar. She advised stuck motorists to ask truck drivers for food and water, as many trucks have extra supplies in case of an emergency.
On Monday, the agency sent a tweet to the drivers who were stuck and said that reinforcements from other states were on their way to get them moving.
"We wish there was a timetable, ETA, or educated guess as to when travel on I-95 will resume." The tweet stated that the situation was "at a standstill" in our region due to multiple incidents. It's frustrating and scary. Our crews won't stop. Crews will continue to work 24 hours a day until all state-maintained roads are safe.
U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, who is from Richmond, stated that he was stuck in his car for 21 hours after completing his two-hour commute to Washington at 1 p.m. Monday.
Kaine said that it was a "miserable experience". He said that traffic was so jammed that emergency vehicles had difficulty removing disabled trucks and cars.
Kaine spoke of camaraderie among stranded people, including a Connecticut family returning home from Florida who walked up and over lines of parked cars to share a bag of oranges.
He said that the cold weather made it "nerve-wracking" to spend the night in freezing temperatures.
Darryl Walter, 57 of Bethesda in Maryland was stuck on I-95 for 10 hours while he drove back from Florida with his wife, 26-year-old son, and dog, Brisket. They turned off their car for about five hours to conserve gas, and northbound traffic began crawling again after that.
To keep them hydrated, they had water and chips. They also had some blankets for warmth. Walter stated that the worst thing about the whole ordeal was not knowing the length of it.
He said, "We didn’t see plows there." "Snow removal in this area has been a joke for years."
Walter still feels lucky that they made it home so quickly, knowing that there were many more people who were left behind. They passed many southbound cars, but they couldn't get past the jack-knifed trucks. Walter stated, "It had 15 miles of backup."
NBC News correspondent Josh Lederman was also stranded. He spoke on Tuesday's "Today", via video feed from his car. A dog was in the back seat. According to him, he was stuck 30 miles (48 km) south of Washington, D.C. since Monday at 8 p.m.
Lederman, a former White House reporter, said that "we started to notice a lot more drivers turning their cars on to conserve gas. People running out of water. Kids and pets were holed up for so long hours. People letting their pets out to try and walk them on to the street."
He said, "And in the interim, no signs of emergency vehicles that we were able to see." You can start to see the dangers of a medical emergency.