Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam defends not sending National Guard to help stranded motorists

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam stood by his decision not to send the National Guard to help motorists stranded on the highway for 16 hours on Monday after the roads began to snow rapidly on Wednesday.

People posted on social media Monday night pleading for help after Interstate 95 was snow-clad and drivers were stranded.

Northam, who said he understood the “frustration and fear” of drivers, said heavy snow and ice has made it very difficult to get workers and equipment where they need help.

“Let us all be clear that this was an incredibly unusual event,” he said during a news conference.

According to police, the snow began to fall rapidly and traffic had already come to a halt after a truck cut off the road early Monday, causing others to lose control of their vehicles.

Mira Rao and her husband Raghavendra said they were on their way home when they got stuck and could not walk for hours, even though they were only 100 feet away from the exit.

“No Police” [officer] We were stuck in 16 hours,” she said. “No one came. It was just shocking. Being in the most advanced country in the world, nobody knew how to clean even a single street for all of us to get out of that mess?”

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam stood by his decision not to send the National Guard to help motorists stranded on the highway for 16 hours on Monday after the roads began to snow rapidly on Wednesday. Above, this image provided by the Virginia Department of Transportation shows a closed section of Interstate 95 near Fredericksburg on January 3, 2022. The north side and southbound sections of the highway were closed due to snow and ice.
Virginia Department of Transportation / AP Photo

According to the National Weather Service, up to 11 inches (28 cm) of snow fell in the area during Monday’s blizzard, and state police warned people not to do so unless absolutely necessary, especially in cold night temperatures. Avoid driving.

The Washington-area office of the National Weather Service noted in a forecast discussion Sunday that snow could fall at a rate of 3 inches (7.6 cm) per hour and accumulate up to a total of 12 inches (30.5 cm) in the area.

Two independent forecasting experts differed on how much of the snowfall intensity cited by state transport officials could be to blame for the traffic pile-up.

Juda Cohen, a winter storm specialist at Atmospheric Environmental Research, a commercial firm outside Boston, said other regions respond to even more intense accumulation without traffic disasters.

“I know of snowfall rates of 5 to 6 inches per hour and without the traffic nightmare we just saw,” he said in an email. System.”

However, Northern Illinois University meteorology professor Victor Jancini said in an email that when snow falls more than two inches per hour, “it is very difficult for most places to maintain it, especially if they have a lack of infrastructure.” There is a shortage.”

Snow fell at a rate of up to 2 inches an hour, with Virginia Department of Transportation engineer Marcy Parker leading the effort to clear the interstate.

“It was totally too much for us,” she told reporters. “As a result, with the amount of traffic we have on the interstate, trucks and cars couldn’t make it up and down the hills because we had a lot of snow and ice there.”

The lanes in both directions were eventually blocked along the nearly 40-mile stretch of I-95 between Richmond and Washington, D.C. As the hours passed and night fell, motorists ran out of fuel, food, and water. Posted messages on social media about

Truck driver Emily Slaughter said she was driving from New Jersey to Georgia to deliver vegetables to a FedEx facility and was stranded on the south side of I-95 for five hours. She said everything was fine on the road until it hit Virginia.

“All of a sudden you couldn’t see the lines anymore. It got a little scary in there,” she said.

Officials said the storm began with rain, so the crew could not pretend the roads were salt or chemicals washed away. Some traffic cameras also got damaged due to power outage. And Parker said that given the location of the traffic backup, the Interstate Express lanes weren’t of much use to clear the logjam.

Crews worked throughout the day to clear the roadway, and traffic spilled onto secondary roads, causing additional delays.

The Virginia Department of Transportation announced Tuesday that it had reopened the interstate after its staff made sure all stranded motorists made it off the highway and then removed abandoned vehicles. Gave and resolved the stretch.

The officials never made any guesses about the number of vehicles stuck in the jam. The pictures show that their number is in the hundreds, if not thousands.

Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kelly Hannon apologized to motorists for the I-95 standoff and said the department would keep a “full eye” on the incident.

The storm also left passengers on an Amtrak train stranded in Virginia. Amtrak’s Crescent left New Orleans on its way to New York on Sunday and got stuck near Lynchburg on Monday morning after fallen trees blocked the tracks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.