Virginia governor apologizing after people left stranded on I-95 in winter storm

Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 12:20 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 4, 2022 at 12:49 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Virginia’s governor is apologizing to people left stranded on Interstate 95 by snowy conditions.

“I am sorry for people that are stranded, but I would ask them to be patient. We’re going to get them as soon as we can,” Governor Ralph Northam said.

Northam says he’s been in constant contact with the Virginia Department of Transportation, Virginia State Police, and other state emergency response officials. He says icy conditions overnight compounded the issue, which started Monday evening along the interstate.

Northam says a series of accidents, along with downed trees have hampered the state’s response to those trapped.

“We have the resources that we need as I said people are working diligently. It’s going to take some time to get to these folks. We’re trying to get water, trying to get to warming stations for them. So we’re doing everything we can to keep people safe and to get these roads cleared,” Northam said.

Northam’s office says The Virginia National Guard is on standby, but a spokesperson says the issue is not manpower — the issue is getting folks into the backup on the interstate.

The governor’s office also says it takes a significant amount of time to activate the guard because they are civilians at work.

For example, a spokesperson said on Jan. 6, 2021, it took 12-18 hours for them to get on the ground at the United States Capitol.

“We knew this storm was coming. We advised people to stay off the roads and when we have these warnings people need to heed them to keep themselves safe,” said Governor Northam.

Speaker-designee Todd Gilbert is calling for national guard mobilization to rescue stranded I-95 motorists

Gilbert issued the following statement Tuesday morning:

“The situation on Interstate 95 is untenable. Travelers are trapped – some for nearly 24 hours. But now isn’t the time to place blame for what went wrong. It’s time to get help to those in need. Local first responders are doing everything they can, but with so many people stranded, the Commonwealth needs to bring all of its resources to bear. It’s not enough for the men, women, and the heavy vehicles of the Virginia National Guard to be ‘available.’ They need to be activated to bring aid to those who need it and to help get the Interstate open again. The best time to do this was last night. The second best time is now. Keeping our citizens safe and our highways open are two core functions of government at which we must not fail,” said Del. Gilbert.

VSP says efforts remain underway by VDOT, VSP, and local response agencies to continue operations to clear I-95 in the Fredericksburg region of stuck and disabled vehicles.

Here’s more information from VSP regarding the I-95 backup:

  • There have been no reported crashes within the impacted stretch of Interstate 95.
  • Motorists traveling Interstate 95 today are advised to identify alternate routes before they reach the Interstate closures. For those heading south, the interstate is closed at Exit 152 (Dumfries Road) in Prince William County. For those heading north, the interstate is closed at Exit 104 (Carmel Church) in Caroline County. Those locations are currently experiencing congestion resulting from drivers not exiting the interstate at earlier opportunities.
  • In Prince William County, local fire and EMS are utilizing the Express Lanes to reach stranded motorists and provide water, snacks, and gas to those in need.

NBC12 has also learned Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin and his transition team have received briefings on the interstate situation.

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