Hundreds of motorists, including a U.S. senator, who became stuck in subfreezing temperatures Monday and Tuesday on an interstate highway in the mid-Atlantic state of Virginia were finally freed after more than 24 hours, according to the state transportation department.
The motorists became stranded Monday after a crash involving six tractor-trailers during a snowstorm made the roadway impassable.
Responders spent most of Tuesday clearing abandoned cars from the freeway, according to Virginia DOT spokesperson Kelly Hannon. She said officials expected the roadway to reopen to motorists by Wednesday morning.
The agency said both directions of Interstate 95 had been closed between the towns of Ruther Glen and Dumfries, about 50 kilometers south of Washington.
No one was injured in the collision Monday afternoon, but it brought traffic to a halt on the main U.S. East Coast highway. Motorists couldn’t move because of the accumulating snow, forcing many to spend the night in their cars. One stranded driver told a television station she feared running out of gas.
Among the stranded was U.S. Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, who tweeted a photo of his predicament on the highway Tuesday after sunrise.
“My office is in touch with VaDOT (the Virginia Department of Transportation) to see how we can help,” Kaine tweeted 19 hours after beginning his normal two-hour commute to Washington.
Kaine finally arrived in Washington 27 hours after he started.
Earlier Tuesday, the state transportation department tweeted (at 5:20 a.m. local time) that crews would begin “taking people off at any available interchange” in both directions.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said Tuesday that state and local emergency personnel had been working to clear downed trees, assist disabled vehicles and reroute drivers.
The fast-moving storm dropped 18 to 28 centimeters of snow in the area Monday, according to the National Weather Service, causing thousands of traffic accidents and stranding vehicles.
Power outages darkened thousands of homes and took traffic cameras offline, hindering response efforts, the transportation department said.
Some information in this report came from Reuters and The Associated Press.