‘Starving, freezing’: Sen. Kaine among hundreds snowed in, stuck for hours on I-95 in Virginia

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(Photos courtesy of Marvin Romero)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Hundreds of cars were stranded for hours Tuesday on Interstate 95 in Virginia as crews cleaned up from Monday’s winter storm, and Sen. Tim Kaine was among the stuck drivers.

The traffic jam took place near Stafford County, happening along a 50-mile stretch of I-95 after a crash Monday involving six tractor-trailers.

“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,” Marcie Parker, Virginia Department of Transportation Fredericksburg district engineer, said in a statement Tuesday.

Kaine tweeted Tuesday that he’d been stuck in his car for 19 hours.

“I started my normal 2 hour drive to DC at 1pm yesterday,” the Virginia Democrat wrote, adding that “19 hours later,” he was still “not near the Capitol.”

Dozens of people contacted WRIC on Tuesday saying it had been a nightmare with no sign of relief as authorities struggled to reach them.

“Everybody right now is just sleeping it off,” said Marvin Romero, who had been stranded in his car with his two daughters since 3 p.m. Monday. “[We’ve been] waiting for the time when we can finally be free from this.”

VDOT confirmed both directions of I-95 remained shut down between Ruther Glen, Virginia, in Caroline County and exit 152 in Dumfries, Prince William County.

“I’m here with my daughter, my other daughter is in the back sleeping, this was totally unexpected,” Romero said. “Thankfully, we had some water. I actually walked around handing water out to people who may need the little I had myself.”

Photo from VDOT cameras

Drivers said they were starving, freezing and worried about running out of gas.

Nina Semesta was also among those worried about running out of essentials.

“Right now, it’s below freezing. No easy access to gas, food or water, and we can’t even exit the highway,” Semesta said.

VDOT said crews were “working diligently” to get several disabled trucks off the highway in Stafford and Spotsylvania.

Gov. Ralph Northam tweeted Tuesday morning saying, “My team has been working throughout the night alongside VSP, VDOT and VDEM to respond to the situation on I-95. State and local emergency personnel are continuing to clear downed trees, assist disabled vehicles, and re-route drivers.”

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.

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. 

There was no immediate timetable for clearing the traffic jam or answers for the drivers. VDOT tweeted to the stranded drivers on Monday that reinforcements were arriving from other states to help get them moving again.

VDOT said it won’t stop working until traffic is flowing.

“Crews will start taking people off at any available interchange to get them,” VDOT tweeted at 5:20 a.m. Tuesday.

On Monday, state police had warned people to avoid driving unless absolutely necessary, especially as evening and freezing temperatures set in.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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