The Virginia Department of Transportation is warning drivers to stay away from Interstate 95 Tuesday morning so crews can free up hundreds of drivers who remain stranded or in slow-moving traffic in temperatures well-below freezing, in what officials are describing as an “unprecedented” event.
The situation currently unfolding in Northern Virginia comes after a winter storm dumped up to a foot of snow and toppled trees across the Fredericksburg region Monday. As of right now, Interstate-95 remains closed northbound and southbound between Exits 104 and 152 leading up to the Washington, D.C., metro area and there are reports of drivers being trapped on the icy roads for more than 15 hours.
“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, an engineer with the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Fredericksburg district, said in a statement.
“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,” she added.
VDOT also said “plans are underway to guide vehicles currently stopped on interstate to nearby interchanges, where they can access alternate routes” and “resources from across Virginia have been deployed to support debris removal, road treatment and clearance efforts on I-95 and state-maintained roads in the Fredericksburg area, with more trucks arriving this morning.”
Reports said that as of 5 a.m. Tuesday, that the southbound lanes of the interstate near mile marker 136 remained at a standstill.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Emily Clementson, a truck driver, told NBC Washington.
WTOP also reported that some drivers have been in their cars for over 15 hours.
“Some callers were sobbing and scared,” said Dave Dildine, a traffic reporter for the station. “Psychologically it is extremely distressing to be motionless on a highway for hours on end without knowing how much longer it will last.”
In a Twitter thread, NBC News reporter Josh Lederman said early Tuesday morning that the “interstate is absolutely littered with disabled vehicles. Not just cars. Semis, everything. Nobody can move. People are running out of gas or abandoning vehicles.”
“For a while, people tried to clear their stuck cars my shoveling with their feet. Most quickly gave up. But, then what? There is zero possibility for any tow truck to get to you right now in the thousands of cars backed up,” he continued.
He later tweeted that after 11 hours, a portion of the northbound lanes were moving again, yet “southbound still completely shut down and the line of backed up cars is MILES long.”
Kristen Powers, an ABC7 reporter who also says she is stuck in the mess, tweeted this morning that another driver told her that she “thought she was going for a 15-minute drive, so she didn’t bring any food or water,” but ended up being “stuck for almost 12 hours and is now running low on gas.”
“I’m told some people have been leaving their car to walk miles for food. Others have started to ask nearby people in stuck cars/trucks for any food or water. People are turning on and off their cars trying to conserve gas,” she also wrote, while adding that traffic appears to be creeping forward as of 5:30 a.m.
Fox News has reached out to the office of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and the Virginia National Guard for comment.
Real-time updates on Google Maps showed ongoing traffic-related issues on roads starting on I-95 in Ruther Glen – just north of Richmond – all the way up to exits at the Pentagon.
Temperatures across the region currently remain in the high teens and aren’t expected to pass the freezing mark until midday Tuesday, offering little natural relief to the situation.
VDOT said “crews will continue in emergency response 24 hours a day until all roads are passable.”
Are you impacted by the Virginia interstate traffic? Send photos and video to [email protected]
Fox News’ Edmund DeMarche contributed to this report.
Virginia I-95 winter storm disaster leaves hundreds stranded: ‘This is unprecedented’