A backup of traffic on Virginia’s I-95 highway has stranded hundreds of vehicles for over 24 hours. One of those trapped due to snow and icy conditions? Sen. Tim Kaine, who was on his way back to Washington D.C.
A heavy snowstorm and icy road conditions have gridlocked both directions of a 50-mile stretch of interstate following 12 inches of snow and collisions between trucks, tractor trailers, and downed trees. The conditions have also made it difficult for rescue workers to dispose of debris and reach accidents, with many stranded passengers forced to sleep in freezing, unmoving cars overnight.
“I started my normal 2 hour drive to DC at 1pm yesterday,” Kaine tweeted at 8:27 a.m. on Tuesday. “19 hours later, I’m still not near the Capitol.”
He also posted a photo of his view, completely barricaded in by trucks on all sides. A busy East Coast highway, especially for large transportation vehicles, I-95 seemed to have quite a number of trucks in the jam, as seen by helicopter photos, increasing the length and difficulty of the backup.
Two hours later, Tim Kaine said that a nice family from Connecticut was walking around between the traffic and handing out oranges. At 2 p.m., he reported that things were moving slowly and that he probably had another two hours left.
“This has been a miserable experience, but at some point I kind of made the switch from a miserable travel experience into kind of a survival project,” he said in a phone interview with Washington D.C. radio station WTOP. “I’ve never seen anything like it, I guess that’s all I can say.”
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam informed people that state officials are doing their best to restore traffic flow and reroute drivers, stating that “an emergency message is going to all stranded drivers connecting them to support, and the state is working with localities to open warming shelters as needed.”
Sen. Time Kaine later tweeted a hotline that people can call if they are in danger: the Virginia Department of Transportation’s number at 1-800-FOR-ROAD.
The traffic jam had Tim Kaine stuck in traffic for over 27 hours, but he finally got home around 4:20 p.m. on Tuesday. “Very happy to be back in the Capitol and working on voting rights legislation this afternoon,” he wrote.
However, many people are still stuck in I-95’s gridlock traffic with no heat, no power, and no food. Some drivers even stayed up all night, worried that turning the car off and falling asleep may prevent even more cars from being able to get home.
Throughout the chaos, NBC reporter Josh Lederman called in to MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” to describe the experience from his car, gridlocked outside of Washington D.C. at the time for over 10 hours.
“This has been a pretty insane and fairly dystopian experience,” he said on Monday night. “With several delays, it was looking pretty bad on the roads and by 7:30 we were just at a standstill and have been at a standstill ever since.”
Lederman, who covers national news and politics for NBC, said that he didn’t see emergency vehicles get to his length of the jam until around midnight, and that people were out walking their dogs and stretching their legs all through the night.
“It’s been 26 degrees outside and nobody knows how long we’re going to be here or how we’re going to get out,” he explained throughout the troubling jam. “You start asking yourself, ‘Am I going to be here all night long? Am I gonna sleep in my car? Should I turn my car off?'”
The scariest concern for drivers and passengers he said, other than having no food or water, was that if there was a medical emergency, there would be no way for first responders to get to the person in need.
Though many have returned home, those with longer destinations remain stuck on the road as Virginia rescue services try to keep things moving.