RUTHER GLEN, Va. (AP) — Hundreds of motorists have been stuck in the snow for more than 15 hours along a 50-mile stretch of Interstate 95 in Virginia after a crash involving six tractor-trailers, authorities said.
The Virginia Department of Transportation confirmed both directions of I-95 remained shut down between Ruther Glen, Virginia, in Caroline County and exit 152 in Dumfries, Prince William County.
The tractor-trailer collision Monday afternoon caused no injuries, but brought traffic to a standstill along the U.S. East Coast’s main north-south highway, and it became impossible to move as the snow accumulated. Hours passed with hundreds of motorists posting increasingly desperate messages on social media about running out of fuel, food and water.
“Crews will start taking people off at any available interchange to get them – for the southbound queue 143 (Garrisonville) and 140 (Courthouse) and northbound at exit 104 and exit 110. NB is 104 (Carmel Church) and 110 is Ladysmith,” VDOT tweeted at 5:20 a.m. Tuesday.
Between 7 to 11 inches of snow accumulated in the area during Monday’s blizzard, according to the National Weather Service, and thousands of accidents and stranded vehicles were reported throughout central and northern Virginia. As of 3:30 p.m. Monday, Virginia State Police had responded to more than 2,000 calls for service due to treacherous road conditions, The Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg reported.
Compounding the challenges, traffic cameras went offline as much of central Virginia lost power in the storm, VDOT said. More than 281,000 customers remained without electricity on Tuesday, according to poweroutage.us.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Emily Clementson, a truck driver, told NBC Washington. She urged stuck motorists to ask truck drivers if they have food or water to share, since many carry extra supplies in case they get stranded.
The agency tweeted to the stranded drivers on Monday that reinforcements were arriving from other states to help get them moving again.
“We wish we had a timetable, ETA or an educated guess on when travel will resume on I-95. It’s at a standstill in our area with multiple incidents,” the tweet read. “Its frustrating & scary. Please know our crews don’t stop. Crews will work 24/7 until ALL state-maintained roads are safe for travel.”
State police had warned people to avoid driving unless absolutely necessary, especially as evening and freezing temperatures set in.
“Due to the heavy snowfall concentrated in that area, road conditions rapidly turned treacherous for commercial and passenger vehicles,” state police reported in a press release. “VSP troopers, wreckers, and VDOT crews continue to work as quickly as the weather and roads will safely permit to get stuck vehicles cleared and traffic moving again on I-95.”