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I-95 crash: Drivers stuck on Virginia highway for more than 15 hours amid snowstorm chaos

Hundreds of drivers have been stuck on the I-95 highway south of Washington, DC in Virginia for close to 20 hours as the capital region is blanketed by snow and ice.

A part of the Interstate 95 highway lasting around 50 miles came to a standstill after a crash that included six tractor-trailers, according to authorities. The traffic is now slowly starting to move again, according to some motorists.

The Virginia Department of Transportation has said that I-95 was shut down in both northbound and southbound directions between Ruther Glen, Virginia, in Caroline County and exit 152 in Dumfries, Prince William County.

The crash involving the tractor-trailers took place on Monday afternoon, and while it didn’t cause any injuries, it did bring traffic to a complete stop on the main north to south highway on the US east coast. As the snow kept falling, it quickly became impossible to move.

As the hours went on, drivers and passengers started sharing dire messages on social media about the lack of food, water, and fuel.

“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,” the Virginia Department of Transportation tweeted at 5:20am on Tuesday.

Washington DC weather - live: Snow wreaks havoc with hundreds of drivers stranded on I-95 in Virginia

“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. While sunlight is expected to help @VaDOT clear the road, all Virginians should continue to avoid 1-95,” outgoing Virginia Governor Ralph Northam tweeted at 8.18am.

This image provided by the Virginia Department of Transportation shows a closed section of Interstate 95 near Fredericksburg, Va. Monday Jan. 3, 2022 (AP)
This image provided by the Virginia Department of Transportation shows a closed section of Interstate 95 near Fredericksburg, Va. Monday Jan. 3, 2022 (AP)

Emergency crews worked to remove cars and trucks, clear the snow, remove ice from the roadway and help stranded drivers to get off the highway.

“We know many travelers have been stuck on Interstate 95 in our region for extraordinary periods of time over the past 24 hours, in some cases since Monday morning. This is unprecedented, and we continue to steadily move stopped trucks to make progress toward restoring lanes. 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,” Marcie Parker, the Fredericksburg District engineer at the Virginia Department of Transportation, said.

Between seven and 11 inches of snow fell in the area during the storm on Monday, according to the National Weather Service. Thousands of accidents and stranded cars and other vehicles were reported in the central and northern parts of the commonwealth.

Virginia State Police had responded to more than 2,000 calls as of 3.30pm on Monday.

“I started my normal two-hour drive to DC at 1pm yesterday. 19 hours later, I’m still not near the Capitol. My office is in touch with @VaDOT to see how we can help other Virginians in this situation. Please stay safe everyone,” Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, who lives in Richmond, tweeted on Tuesday morning.

When large parts of central Virginia lost power, the traffic cameras went offline. More than 281,000 residents were still without electricity on Tuesday, according to poweroutage.us.

The stranded motorists included NBC News correspondent Josh Lederman, who spoke on NBC’s “Today” show on Tuesday via video feed from his car, with a dog in the back seat. He said he’d been stuck about 30 miles (48 kilometres) south of Washington, DC, since 8pm Monday.

“I don’t have any food or water. I have gas, but how long is that going to last?” Mr Lederman added.

“We started to see a lot of drivers turning their cars off to conserve gas, people running out of food and water, kids and pets holed up for so many hours, people letting their pets out of the car to try to walk them on the street. And in the meantime, no signs of any emergency vehicles that we could see,” he said. “You really start to think if there was a medical emergency, someone that was out of gas and out of heat – you know it’s 26 degrees (-3C) and there’s no way that anybody can get to you in this situation.”

At 6.45am on Tuesday, Mr Lederman tweeted: “After 11 hours stuck in our cars, we are finally moving again on I-95. But only northbound. Southbound still completely shut down and the line of backed-up cars is MILES long.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report