Virginia’s I-95 Snowmageddon: Advice for Gov.-Elect Youngkin


Fortunately, no one appears to have died. But it was still a disaster and potentially life-threatening for those stranded in vehicles without provisions after a freakish snowstorm that shut down a key section of I-95 in northern Virginia for upwards of 27 hours.

The storm dumped close to a foot of snow in the Washington DC suburbs. Initial predictions had it close to three or four inches. Less snow and more rain fell about 90 miles south towards Richmond. At times, the storm dumped close to three inches per hour. That’s a lot. It brought back memories of my near-disastrous travel in northern California last week.

Yes, I know, people from northern climates are shedding no tears for Northern Virginia, which typically panics at the hint of snow. Radio talker Hugh Hewitt, a northeast Ohio native who currently broadcasts from sunny southern California, smugly asserted, “Do you know what we call this in Ohio? March.” Hugh, a former acting director of the federal Office of Personnel Management, used to make calls about closing government offices for inclement weather.

Virginia officials apologized for the delay, which they blamed on the weather (early rains prevented the effective use of pre-treatments), and outgoing Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA) blamed drivers. You can’t make this up. Meanwhile, many of us were reminded about systemic corruption at the Virginia Department of Transportation going back to the Terry McAuliffe and early Northam Administrations.

 At least Northam didn’t promise that the stranded “would be kept comfortable.” And be resuscitated “if that’s what the mother and the family wanted, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

Apparently missing in action, again: US Transportation Pete Buttigieg.

Virginia’s income GOP House Speaker Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) recommended calling out the National Guard early Tuesday. Under the control of the US Marines and the Department of Defense, Marine Base Quantico was nearby. It is unclear what help they might have been, other than delivering water and other supplies to stranded travelers. Regardless, no effort was made to mobilize them. From a Democratic State Delegate whose family was also stuck in the storm, courtesy of the Virginia Mercury:

State Del. Lashrecse Aird, D-Petersburg, her husband, their two boys and the family dog were stranded overnight while returning from a holiday trip to New York. In an interview, Aird said her group was stuck in Stafford County for more than 15 hours, making it through the night with pretzels and Nutri-Grain bars picked up from a gas station. At times, she said, they turned off the car to try to conserve gas, unsure when they’d be able to refuel or buy more food.

“How is it something like this could happen in present day?,” she said.

Aird said she’s not buying the claim the state did all it possibly could.

“You knew that we were there but there was no information provided,” she said. “I think that more deliberate care and concern could have been shown. If you have the option of sending the National Guard to come in with blankets and these sorts of things, why not do it when people needed it most?”

Officials from VDOT, the Virginia State Police and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management said both the intensity of the storm and the hazardous conditions it created complicated the state’s response.

The storm was indeed a great equalizer, affecting both families and at least one US Senator and former Vice Presidential candidate, Tim Kaine (D-VA). Kaine did not appear to take any responsibility, per Northam’s admonition, for contributing to the pile-up (maybe he was just a passenger). No words from any Republican officials caught in the melee.

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There are 14 comments.

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  1. OldPhil Coolidge

    I-95 traffic is so bad

    When we take our trips from NW Virginia to our condo in the Outer Banks, I do everything possible to avoid I-95. We’re on it for about 3 miles in the Fredericksburg area, but most of the drive until we hit I-64 in the Newport News/Hampton Roads area is on quiet, uncrowded roads. 

    • #1
  2. MarciN Member

    That people were sitting on that road in those dismal conditions for 27 hours is beyond my imagination. They must be furious.

    The holidays are the most traveled days of the year, and storms are common during those weeks. The lack of preparedness is stunning. There’s no excuse for it. And on a good day, there are nowhere near enough service centers for travelers. There should be something every ten miles.

    I hope there is now motivation to fix it. At the very least, they need to make sure there are access lanes for emergency vehicles and tow trucks.

    • #2
  3. Headedwest Coolidge

    We were headed back from CT to our home in TX after Christmas. Sunday night we were in Salem, VA (just off I-81). We watched the weather forecasts worsen that night, so we got up very early Monday to head south for our next stop in Meridian MS.

    We started in cold rain which quickly changed to snow. Most of the Interstate from Christianburg to the TN border was completely untouched by any plow, even though the late Sunday forecasts were very accurate about the timing and the amount of snow. 

    It was a rough go much of the way, and I’m glad I have a 4×4 truck and good tires. 

    But I have to say that VDOT came up small for all the roads we drove that morning. We did see some plows idling near the road. I guess they were warming up for clearing the road later.

    • #3
  4. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt

    I’m amazed that there were no fatalities. This is one of the reasons I was so pleased to move to my ancestral home in Western NY from Northern VA, where I raised my family and lived for 30 years. That section of I-95 is commonly known as “the Ho Chi Minh Trail.” You avoid it at all costs.

    The VA DOT is notoriously corrupt. I wasn’t surprised to learn that none of the automated signs gave any warning that people were driving into 50 miles of stopped traffic.

    Way back when the Interstates were being designed there was supposed to be an Outer Beltway, taking 95 around DC at a greater distance than the commuter-clogged 495/95 Beltway. Maryland and Virginia could never agree on where to put the bridge. So all that semi-truck traffic on the major north-south road on the East Coast goes right through the biggest commuter traffic hub in the country.

    Once a civil engineer friend showed me a study of what would happen if a tanker truck carrying liquid oxygen collided with a propane truck on I-95 during rush hour. There was a circle of total destruction a quarter mile in diameter.

    I thank the Lord every day that I live where a traffic jam consists of getting stuck behind an Amish wagon and horse team.

    • #4
  5. Sisyphus Member

    Why would Northam do anything when the media is so corrupt it blames the not yet seated Youngkin? And Jonah’s research time to writing time ratio has been out of kilter for years. I think he may have been replaced by a bot programmed by the Babylon Bee.

    • #5
  6. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt

    Sisyphus (View Comment):

    … I think he may have been replaced by a bot programmed by the Babylon Bee.

    That would explain a lot.

    • #6
  7. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos

    OldPhil (View Comment):

    I-95 traffic is so bad

    When we take our trips from NW Virginia to our condo in the Outer Banks, I do everything possible to avoid I-95. We’re on it for about 3 miles in the Fredericksburg area, but most of the drive until we hit I-64 in the Newport News/Hampton Roads area is on quiet, uncrowded roads.

    That stretch between Fredricksburg & Richmond is a disaster 24/7/365.  It does not take much to turn it into a parking lot.

    • #7
  8. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)

    Is is just me, or is something strange going on when an event that results in zero deaths is compared to Armageddon?

    Maybe y’all need to re-read Revelation.  I especially like the part about all the birds being called to be gorged on the flesh of the dead.  Just like David said he’d do to Goliath and the Philistines.  It’s a bit worse than a snowstorm.

    • #8
  9. navyjag Coolidge

    Northern California? Jeez, Kelly where were you? We got what? 3 inches of rain last week? Something is weird here.  I-95 is what keeps us Californians prisoners. 

    • #9
  10. Kozak Member

    All my cars have an emergency kit in the trunk.  Including some food, water, first aid kit, flashlights, emergency blanket etc.  I wish people would just think and plan a little.

    • #10
  11. GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Malpropisms Reagan
    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Malpropisms

    I have been avoiding the north end of the 1-95 corridor for at least the last decade. Nominally I now use Rt 301 till just outside Richmond. Even corrupt Maryland is finally getting around to replacing the 2 lane Harvey Nice Bridge over the Potomac to a four lane. It has only been on the books for 3 decades.

    Why did it take finally getting a two term Republican Governor to make it happen instead of spending all that extra toll slush money on non road related crap.

    • #11
  12. Metalheaddoc Member

    What did stranded motorists do about going to the bathroom? That was my first thought when I heard the news. 

    • #12
  13. OldPhil Coolidge

    Metalheaddoc (View Comment):

    What did stranded motorists do about going to the bathroom? That was my first thought when I heard the news.

    I heard one guy who called into a radio talk show and said he was certainly happy he didn’t have to “go to the bathroom in a major way, if you know what I mean.” I’m sure there was a lot of frantic searching for TP substitutes.

    • #13
  14. Duane Oyen Member
    Duane Oyen

    Put Winsome in charge of a serious task force.  Identify every town along the key areas, where there are parallel routes, where you can drive the shoulders with tracked vehicles, where the Nat’l Guard sites are along that stretch, where the fire departments are, etc.  Create plans for them to  deploy tracked vehicles and helicopters with supplies (blankets, water, tents, latrines, emergency airlift) on call along the bad stretches.  Get every available M113 APC in the country that is not in active service sent to the I95 corridor and forward deployed for contingency purposes. 

    And so on.  Now that we’ve seen the disaster, we should plan for it, or publicly advertise why we don’t.  But no excuses for not addressing it.

    Maybe put Jonah on the task force as a public representative along with Sen Kaine’s chief of staff. 

    When we head South out of Annapolis, we avoid the Wilson Bridge, etc- we go down 301 past Quantico.  No way to miss Richmond, but at least you avoid Springfield, the Beltway, Woodbridge, Stafford stretches.

    • #14
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