Drivers stranded for 24 hours on I-95


Photo courtesy of the New York Times.

   As winter weather swept across the east coast on Monday, thousands of drivers found themselves stranded for more than 24 hours on a stretch of I-95 near Fredericksburg, Virginia. 

   After the area experienced more than a foot of snow, several trucks became disabled on the highway which blocked other cars from getting through. Lines of stuck vehicles stretched for more than 50 miles as their drivers struggled to stay safe on the icy roads. 

   As the temperatures dropped into the teens, drivers attempted to stay warm by turning their cars on for short periods of time before turning them off again to save fuel. Many people were without food, so at one point the driver of a bread delivery truck opened his doors and distributed the loaves to drivers around him. 

   Although there were no deaths, the conditions were extremely unsafe with slick and icy roads that caused cars to slide, making it difficult for people to walk outside of their cars. Additionally, most of the side roads leading off of the highway were also stopped, so even those who got off the highway remained stuck on the roads until early Tuesday morning around one a.m.

   Many of the drivers who experienced the pileup are frustrated with officials’ response to the crisis, or what many people viewed as a lack of response.

   “Not one police officer came in the 16 hours we were stuck,” complained Meera Rao.

   In response to comments like these, Marcie Parker, an engineer from Virginia’s Department of Transportation, argued that the snow falling at more than two inches per hour was too much for anyone to keep up with. 

   “That was entirely too much for us to keep up with,” Parker said, adding, “the trucks and cars couldn’t make it up and down the hills because we had too much snow and ice out there.”

   This event seems to be the first of many potentially dangerous situations caused by winter weather. In Kentucky on January 6, near-record snowfall caused multiple mile-long stretches of highways to be shut down. Dozens of cars were involved in several major pileups, but no fatalities have been reported. 

   The wave of cold weather has also hit the northeast, forcing schools in Vermont and Massachusetts to close. In many states, the temperatures were record-breakingly low.