By: Muskan Kumar – Correspondent
A 50 mile stretch of I-95 in Eastern Virginia south of Washington DC opened up on the night of January 4th after some drivers were stranded for over 24 hours due to severe winter weather moving through the area. The storm which passed through the area on January 3rd dumped over a foot of snow.
The Fredericksburg area closure between Richmond, Virginia and Washington DC was triggered by a tractor trailer accident and cars stalling because of the freezing temperatures.
NBC News correspondent Josh Lederman, with his dog in the back seat, was one of the thousands of drivers stranded on I-95. He says that the interstate was covered with disabled vehicles and nobody was able to move. “We were lucky. We had enough gas to make it through without losing power to the car. We were OK without having water and food, but this was a scary situation,” said Lederman.
Seb Lancaster, a film and television student at Boston University, also got stuck on the interstate while heading towards Connecticut to visit family.
He says that just after midnight on January 4th, the highway was packed like the opening scene of the hit film “La La Land” with people milling all around. “Though it was much grimmer, with people crying, smoking, walking their kids [and] pets, and begging for supplies,” added Lancaster.
Alice Zaniewski, 2022, got her license over a year ago and says that she definitely needs to take precautions while driving in the winter, though she generally doesn’t keep any emergency supplies in her car. “I couldn’t imagine being stranded in my car for a day especially in the winter when it’s so cold,” said Zaniewski.
Zaniewski says that it definitely takes longer to get to school during the winter months. “During the winter weather I try to leave earlier in case there’s ice and I have to slow down.”
In the case of I-95 on January 3rd, Lederman says the drivers for the most part were expecting delays due to the weather.
But he added, “People were not anticipating, at least I certainly was not, that they would have to be spending the entire night waiting to see if anybody was going to come and clear the road so that people would be able to get out.”
US Senator for Virginia Tim Kaine, who was driving towards Washington, was another driver stuck on the highway for more than 24 hours.
He says that at some point he switched from viewing the day as miserable to a kind of day he just needed to survive through. “The roads are incredibly slick, and my car is sliding around, and I don’t have food or drink in my car, so I was more focused on, ‘OK, how do I safely get out of this mess,’” said Kaine.
Lancaster says that with cars stuck, trees down, and miles of cars parked unevenly around ice heaps to avoid getting closely stuck, it was nearly impossible for emergency crews to reach them.
He recalls thinking, “I’m afraid to sleep, and afraid to stay up and see what happens.”