Margaret Minnicks has been an online writer for many years. She writes about interesting things.
The first major snowstorm of the season that happened in Virginia left motorists stuck on I-95 for at least 27 hours in a 50-mile stretch near Fredericksburg on Monday and Tuesday, January 3-4, 2022.
Passengers had to sleep in their cars. Many didn't have food to eat and proper supplies to keep warm. Motorists had to keep their cars running during that time to provide heat, and many of them worried about running out of gas. One man with two children said he periodically turned the motor off to save gas.
What Caused the Back Up?
What triggered the backup was the accident of at least six big rigs and stalled vehicles in the freezing temperatures.
One of the motorists stuck was the former Virginia Governor and now Democratic Virginia Senator Tim Kaine. The senator said his office was in touch with the Virginia Department of Transportation to see how people could be helped in that situation. He said usually it would take him only two hours to get from Richmond to Washington, DC. However, he tweeted Tuesday afternoon that he had been stuck in traffic for 27 hours before making it to his office.
He said the only thing he ate during that time was one orange, and the only liquid he had was one 16-ounce Dr. Pepper.
Hungry Passengers Given Bread
Those stranded were tired, sleepy, afraid, and hungry. The ones who had some food in their possession began to share the little they had with others. A Maryland couple, Casey Holihan and her husband, John Noe, were among those stranded. It had been 37 hours since they had eaten.
Around 9 a.m. on Tuesday, they spotted a stranded truck from Schmidt Baking Company ahead of them near Quantico, Virginia. It was filled with bread. It was not filled with live animals, furniture, dog food, or Amazon products. Instead, it was filled with bread. The couple called the company and got permission within 20 minutes from Chuck Paterakis, one of the owners of H&S Bakery, which operates Schmidt Baking Company. Paterakis told them to tell the truck driver, Ron Hill, to open the truck and distribute bread to the hungry people.
Others helped Hill and the Maryland couple walk up and down the interstate and distributed about 300 loaves of bread to people in about 50 cars. Many of them had not eaten all day.
One man shared that he received a loaf of potato bread, and it was the best he has ever had and it filled him up. Paterakis says he was glad the Baltimore family-run company could help.
That story reminded me of God providing bread from heaven to feed the hungry Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness without food.
When Did I-95 Reopen?
The Virginia Transportation Department announced on Tuesday at 8:40 p.m. that it had removed all disabled vehicles and big-rigs that had blocked the northbound and southbound roadways from Exit 104 to Exit 152. That means the interstate was shut down and motorists were stranded for more than a day. That was 27-33 hours, by some accounts.
Governor Ralph Northam said the state was prepared for a few inches of snow, but not an entire foot. He added that slushy snow prevented pre-treating the highway with salt or gravel. The governor also said motorists had been repeatedly warned to stay off the roads.
In spite of the horrible condition the people were in, there were no fatalities or injuries. That is not keeping many motorists from being furious and complaining that emergency officials did not provide food, water, or blankets for the stranded people in freezing temperatures.
Hopefully, something like this will never happen again.
Reactions from Some of the Motorists
Josh Lederman, a reporter with NBC News, was stuck in his car overnight. He tweeted that many motorists turned off their cars to keep from running out of gas. Some people got out of their cars to get exercise and to walk their dogs. He said he put snow in a bowl to feed his dog.
Seb Lancaster, a 21-year-old film and television student at Boston University, was driving to visit his father in Connecticut. He spent the night in a frigid vehicle with his twin sister, her boyfriend, and his dog. He complained about the lack of communication from transportation officials. Lancaster stated that he spent 2 and a half hours on hold waiting to speak to a representative for information.
Liz Blasso was traveling from Pennsylvania to North Carolina on Monday. She said by late Tuesday morning she had moved only 8 miles since 6:30 p.m the day before. She was traveling alone and was afraid to go to sleep. So, she stayed awake for at least 36 hours. She wasn't able to take her nightly medications because they would make her drowsy.