I-95 Virginia: Motorists stranded for hours after winter storm wreaked havoc and left more than 400,000 without power

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Among those stranded in the area: US Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, who said he was still stuck in traffic on Tuesday at 8:30 a.m., 7 p.m. after starting his commute. He did not specify which road he was on; Many secondary roads in the region have also been blocked by felled trees or winter conditions, authorities said.

Other motorists have expressed frustration on social media as they sat in vehicles on I-95, unable to move and worried about below freezing temperatures overnight and in the morning after a storm that dropped more than a foot of snow in the Fredericksburg area and left more than 400,000 Mid-Atlantic and Southeast customers without power.

At 7 a.m. Tuesday, Susan Phalen and her four dogs had been stranded on I-95 just south of Stafford for more than 10 hours, and there was no indication that traffic in her northbound lanes would move anytime soon.

Phalen had left her home in Fredericksburg around 8 p.m. Monday for a trip which she said should only last an hour, she said.

“This one for the record books,” she told CNN Tuesday morning. “I could have gone faster.”

She said she started off with a full tank of gas and was successful in getting her car to run for heat. Temperatures in the area plunged into teens overnight.

“A lot of people… in my neighborhood have turned off their cars to save gas, and then they’ll turn the car back on to warm it up a bit,” she told CNN over the phone.

Authorities have closed this 50 mile stretch – between Exit 104 near Ruther Glen and Exit 152 near Dumfries – so workers can remove stopped trucks and treat the road for snow and icing, VDOT noted.
In congested sections, workers try to guide motorists to nearby interchanges, VDOT said. Some travelers have been stranded since Monday morning, VDOT said.

Motorists facing medical or life-threatening emergencies should call 911, VDOT said on Twitter.

“Please state your vehicle make and model, as well as the nearest mileage. Please stay inside the vehicle”, VDOT tweeted.

“It’s unprecedented”

An emergency message will be sent to all drivers stranded on I-95 to put them in contact with assistance, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam tweeted Tuesday.

Local and state emergency personnel are helping broken down vehicles, cleaning up downed trees and reorienting drivers, he tweeted.

The Commonwealth is also working to set up heated shelters with localities, the tweet said.

“This is unprecedented, and we continue to move stopped trucks on a regular basis to move forward with track restoration,” said VDOT Fredericksburg engineer Marcie Parker.
Washington, DC sees record snowfall as storm system moves across the east

“As the VDOT removes disabled vehicles and plows / treats the road to make it safe for passage as they are pulled out, soldiers (from the Virginia State Police) will reach out to every driver.” , said the VDOT.

The Fredericksburg area received at least 14 inches of snow from the storm, according to the National Weather Service for the Baltimore / Washington area. Fredericksburg is located between Richmond, Virginia, and Washington, DC.

An estimated 20 to 30 trucks were stranded on the northbound I-95 near the Thornburg exit, according to VDOT, which said tow crews were at the scene.

A car is stuck in the snow in Alexandria, Va., As a winter snowstorm hits the upstate on Monday.
On the south side, stranded and broken down trucks were blocking traffic on the highway in Stafford, VDOT reported.

“We know that people have been pulled over for extraordinary times leading up to these closures, but we are cleaning the trucks one by one to get through this blockage, and we will get to every driver and restore traffic,” Kelly Hannon, door- word of the VDOT Fredericksburg District, told CNN.

“Crews continue to work intensely to tow stranded and blocking vehicles near the 136 mile markers in Stafford County, then plow and treat the freeway to avoid follow-up accidents,” Hannon said. “This also occurs where traffic remains stopped on Interstate 95 northbound at kilometer 117 in Spotsylvania County.”

Power outages have cut off traffic cameras in the area of ​​I-95 near Fredericksburg, where travel is blocked, hampering the VDOT’s response, Hannon said.

CNN en Español correspondent Gustavo Valdés was among those stuck in traffic. He said when he pulled over to refuel around 6 p.m. his GPS showed he was two hours from Washington. At 1 a.m. Tuesday, he still hadn’t arrived.

Valdés said he got off the freeway near Quantico, Va., But side roads were also blocked. Route 1A, which runs parallel to I-95 in the area, was blocked by jack-up trucks, preventing snowplows from passing.

CNN Español correspondent Gustavo Valdés took this photo from Highway 1A in Virginia.

Valdés said he considered pulling to the side of the road to spend the night in his car because he couldn’t find an available hotel room, but traffic had started to flow again.

Some four-wheel-drive vehicles have helped create new paths in the snow for other vehicles to follow, he said.

While traffic was obstructed on the highway, drivers were also advised to stay off local roads as dozens of traffic lights were out of service due to power outages, officials said.
More than 400,000 customers were in the dark Tuesday morning from Georgia to Maryland, with nearly 300,000 outages reported in Virginia alone, according to PowerOutage.US.
Further north on I-95, the federal government offices in Washington, DC, open with a three hour delay Tuesday after being closed on Monday due to weather. The district recorded 8.5 inches of snowfall on Monday, the heaviest one-day snowfall total since January 2016, CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said. Capitol Heights, Maryland, recorded 11.5 inches of snow and the Baltimore / Washington International Airport reported 6.7 inches.

It could take several weeks for all that snow to melt, CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri said, explaining that the white layer of the snow cover reflects sunlight, essentially acting as a coolant that keeps the ground surface from cooling. heat enough to melt it.

On average, it takes about three days in temperatures above 50 degrees for about 2-4 inches of snow to melt, Javaheri said, and the Washington area is expected to stay below that mark at least until late. of the week.

A person walks along the sidewalk in Alexandria, Va., As a winter snowstorm hits the area on Monday.

3 dead in collision between SUV and snowplow, officials say

Three deaths have been reported in Maryland after an SUV with four occupants collided with a snow plow, according to Shiera Goff, spokesperson for the Montgomery County Police Department. Two women and a man were pronounced dead at the scene, Goff said, and a fourth victim, a man, was taken to an area hospital where he is in critical condition.

Investigation into the cause of the collision is ongoing, Goff said.

In the southeast, two children were killed by fallen trees on Monday morning, officials said.

In Georgia, a 5-year-old Atlanta-area boy died when a tree fell on his house in gusty winds, DeKalb County Fire Department spokesman Capt Jaeson Daniels told CNN’s affiliate, WSB. The boy’s mother was safely rescued, the outlet reported.
Record-breaking snow temperatures, cities shake in shock on Monday
The area’s soil has been saturated by recent rains, Daniels told the WSB. The NWS in Atlanta warned of possible gusts of wind 40 to 50 mph Monday morning.
And in Tennessee, a 7-year-old girl died early Monday morning when a tree fell on her home in the Knoxville area, the Blount County Sheriff’s Office told CNN-affiliated WVLT.

“There are trees all over the county, especially here in Townsend, because we’re right at the foot of Great Smoky National Park,” Marian O’Briant, BCSO’s public information officer, told WVLT . “There are a lot of trees; it was kind of heavy, wet snow, so the trees are still falling right now.”

CNN has contacted DeKalb County Fire Department and the Blount County Sheriff’s Office.

Winter conditions also slowed travel in New Jersey, where state police reported 160 crashes and 245 requests for motorist assistance, according to Col. Patrick Callahan, state police superintendent.

In Atlantic City, 9.5 inches of snow were reported.

Southwestern New Jersey received between 1 and 4 inches of snowfall, while the southeastern part of the state received between 6 and 11 inches, Gov. Phil Murphy said.

CNN’s Jennifer Henderson, Alisha Ebrahimji, Amir Vera, and Michael Guy contributed to this report.

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