FREDERICKSBURG, Va. — The Virginia Department of Transportation has finally cleared Interstate 95 after drivers were stuck for 24 hours. Now, drivers are asking who, if anyone, dropped the ball.
“It was crazy," Gary Griffin said. "It was just nobody there. And now we need to sort of point a few fingers.”
Griffin was driving home to Alexandria from Fort Lee Monday morning after his 19-year-old son was sworn in as a Coast Guard member.
“We got up 95 at about noon...started slowing down. And then it stopped. And it stayed stopped," he said. "And there were no personnel, no VDOT vehicles, nothing.”
He joined the ranks of thousands of others who were stuck in a gridlock in the Fredericksburg area of I-95, as snow caused pileups and slides, and crews worked to clear the scene.
Griffin said they sat for 23 hours.
“We had a half a tank left, so we would warm up the car and turn it off for 30-40 minutes and warm up the car and turn it off," he said.
They made it home Tuesday afternoon, but now he -- and so many others -- are asking where were VDOT crews and communication from the governor and other agencies.
In a briefing Tuesday, Governor Ralph Northam said crews could not pretreat roads because of the rain, and multiple tractor-trailers crashed. He said those and other factors caused a backup and challenge to access stranded drivers.
Reporters from WUSA's sister station in Richmond, WTVR, asked Northam why he didn't call a state of emergency.
“A state of emergency, that deals with resources, mainly financial resources," the governor said. "We have those available right now. So, again it’s just the challenge of getting our resources to where we need to be.”
VDOT officials said they had been warning drivers all day to stay off the route, too, but that some from out of state might not have heard the warnings.
"We certainly understand people face scary, stressful situations," VDOT spokesperson, Kelly Hannon said. "And we do apologize and will take an exhaustive look at this incident."
While Griffin was not impressed with the state's response, he was with his fellow drivers.
“People behaved very well, which is always a good thing in situations like this," he said.
VDOT said as of Tuesday night, all stranded vehicles had been removed from the road, and I-95 was back open in both directions.
Officials cautioned, however, that travel was still hazardous through Stafford, Spotsylvania, and Caroline Counties, so they advise avoiding those roads.
A release also said that most secondary roads were still in severe condition, meaning snow-covered with little pavement showing. And, officials said there are still a lot of closures due to downed trees and utility lines in the Fredericksburg area.