Drivers from Hampton Roads area stranded in I-95 gridlock

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Posted at 1:36 PM, Jan 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-04 22:01:37-05

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Hundreds of motorists waited desperately for help Tuesday after being stranded for nearly 24 hours in freezing temperatures along a 50-mile stretch of highway south of the nation's capital that became impassable when tractor-trailers jackknifed in a winter storm.

The disabled trucks triggered a chain reaction Monday as other vehicles lost control and blocked lanes in both directions of Interstate 95, the main north-south highway along the East Coast, police said. As hours passed and night fell, motorists posted messages on social media about running out of fuel, food and water.

Ashley Claiborne and her boyfriend, Jason Jones, are from Newport News and are stuck in the snarl.

"I've never, never seen anything like this - never anything happen like this, traffic-wise," said Claiborne.

She and Jones were on their way back from a Baltimore Ravens football game when they encountered the mess around 5 p.m. on Monday.

"We haven’t gotten to panic mode yet. We are pretending we are sitting on our couch," said Claiborne.

She said they do have a full tank of gas and have been conserving by cutting on and off every hour or so.

"We have a few snacks, a little candy a bag of chips and one water, so we are making do," she said. "We are taking naps every hour or so to see if traffic is moving."

Around 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Claiborne and Jones said they were moving off and on about 3 mph.

John Dodd, a Navy veteran, is also stuck in the congestion. He and his wife were in Virginia Beach celebrating New Year's Eve and are trying to make their way home to Maryland.

"We have no idea exactly where we are because there are no signs," said Dodd.

Dodd is also one of the lucky ones with a full tank of gas.

"We have water snacks, sunflower seeds and skittles," Dodd laughed.

Around daybreak, road crews began helping drivers get off “at any available interchange," the Virginia Department of Transportation tweeted.

By 9 a.m., a single lane of traffic was creeping forward between many stalled trucks and cars in one direction. People could be seen walking down traffic lanes still covered with ice and snow.

Just after 2 p.m. Virginia State Police described the progress at the 109 mile marker emergency crossover in Caroline County as "slow but steady." They and VDOT crews are continuing to help stranded motorists.

"We are stuck in the same place we have been for six hours, I'd say," said Dodd. "[The] interstate is complete ice - no plow has passed this area."

Dodd told News 3 he often can see people getting out for fresh air, taking a stroll or out walking their dogs.

As of 5:15 p.m., VDOT Fredericksburg said there are no more stranded motorists on I-95 and there are fewer than 20 vehicles left to be removed.

VDOT confirmed around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday that I-95 northbound and southbound lanes in the state have reopened after being closed for emergency response for most of the day prior.

All disabled vehicles have been removed from the interstate.

As for Claiborne and Jones, they told News 3 they finally arrived home in Newport News around 8 p.m. Tuesday - roughly 27 hours after leaving D.C.