People are stuck on a highway in Virginia

I am so glad I closed the office Monday or I would have been in that jam all night. I have been stuck on 95/495 before, once for 7 hours and once for 9 hours. When there is an accident blocking 95 there is no way to move and even if you reach an exit, it seems like they are all also blocked. Then people run out of gas or patience and abandon their cars in the middle of the street which makes everything worse. Closing 95 does nothing for the people already stuck and with bad weather, there are often no alternative routes available.

Thank you for the effort, but it is exactly that kind of op-ed fearmongering that prompted my curiosity.

This is putting it mildly.

Quite some time ago I was there during a “storm” for which an inch of snow was predicted - and about 75% that much actually arrived. This pretty well ended normal life from noon (when the first flakes arrived) to the next morning (when pleasant weather left only traces of snow in well-shaded areas). I could get around on foot and thus spectate rather than participate in the driving craziness.

I was amazed by signs that appeared at service stations: “We have tire chains” “Chains sold and mounted”. (I grew up in upstate NY where snow was plentiful and maybe 1% of drivers - the ones that lived some ways down an unmaintained road - owned chains.)

Best scene was in early afternoon the next day: Sun and temps in the mid-40s had left roads dry and in perfect condition. A strange noise drew my attention: it was a Georgetown police car rolling down the street with chains on all 4 wheels.

From the article:

“[The tow truck driver] was a messenger from God,” Rao said. “I literally was in tears.”

What was the message, pray tell? “I can send snow anytime I want. You should be prepared. FEAR ME!”

This article on WMAR’s website quotes Virginia government officials as stating that the rain which fell before it started snowing would have made pre-treating the roads ineffective, i.e., it would have washed the salt off.

A perfect storm.

This is a key bit in the scale of Monday’s mess – this is a stretch where it is not quite easy to get around a choke in I-95 in bad weather. In this instance almost anywhere you could be exiting between Richmond and Fredericksburg, and then in the first half (or maybe even two thirds) of the way between Fredericksburg and the Beltway (whether trying to get to US-1, the sole other primary highway between Richmond and DC, or just to not be in the backup) you would be exiting onto another road that on top of being smaller capacity would also be in poor driving conditions, and services would be thin on the ground.

Yeah. As a proponent of electric cars, I didn’t love that article - the author seemed to really be pointing out that EVs Are A Bad Idea. But the reality is, there would indeed be some concerns in extreme conditions.

We drive 95 between Springfield, VA and Richmond, VA somewhat regularly - and as noted, there really is no alternative. Ignoring snow: the only alternate route is US1: the Rappahannock River is a bottleneck that you literally cannot avoid unless you go a hundred or more miles out of the way, on far worse roads. I spent a fair bit of time poring over maps at one point, trying to find SOME way to avoid 1 or 95, and the river crossings mandate that you have to use one of those routes at some point.

Naturally, if 95 is backed up, everyone else is bailing onto US1 - so that’s not any better. It’s at least as hilly, with more curves, and plenty of traffic lights. Not my idea of fun in icy conditions.

Really, 95 is the only viable route all the way down into mid-Florida (which we’ve also driven quite a few times). I’ve been stuck in jams in NC, SC and Georgia - all but one of which had no obvious cause (one was due to what was evidently a very nasty accident). It serves a significant percentage of the country’s population and gross domestic product.

I’m a bit surprised that there weren’t reports of massive backups on the DC Beltway (maybe nobody could get to it!!).

I guess, maybe. But even if they did have the forethought to keep emergency supplies in their vehicles, it’s not like you can keep drinks in your car for the possibility that you might be trapped in traffic overnight. Best case scenario if it’s cold enough to snow, your drinks freeze. Worst, they freeze and split the container causing a mess.

I forgot about a bottle of water a couple days ago and the only reason it didn’t tear though the thin bottle as it froze was I’d drank a couple ounces of the water before misplacing the bottle so it had room to expand.

There were acts of kindness. I got a little misty eyed after reading this article. It’s easy to forget there’s still a lot of good-hearted people in this world. This moment of humanity made a lot of stranded people’s day a little brighter.

So you treat it when it stops raining or use more salt. Treating roads is not a one-size-fits-all scenario.

Snow-over-ice is a difficult surface to drive on if the road is level. Adding hills makes it impossible. I would think the National Guard has equipment for such an emergency. They would have to back track the road from exit ramps with salt trucks and earth movers to get to traffic and tow anybody stuck on the uphill side. It would be a hill by hill operation.

If I were the governor I’d put the word out for people with snow mobiles to haul supplies up and down the highway. People have always stepped up in emergencies and would jump at the chance to help.

this reminds me of a blizzard we had in the 70’s that created 10 ft high show drifts. Some 4x4 truck tried to drive through one and just buried it. A Semi tractor with tire changes drove up and pulled the pickup truck out like it was a toy.

Speaking of truly memorable weaseling, the mayor of Lexington, Kentucky some years back defended the city’s pitifully inadequate road-clearing effort after a snowstorm, with lines like “It’s worse in Louisville” and “Time is our ally”.

A guy told me today that he was stuck on I-75 for more than 11 hours on Thursday, trying to get home in Richmond from Lex. Accidents on the Madison Cty. side, he said.

The national Capital Region, including the parts of both states as well as the District, are historically notoriously horrible at managing winter weather on the roads. Anything over two inches and it’s “mind.exe has stopped responding”.

And I don’t know if you’d find many snowmobiles in Stafford County…

For those at home: that’s the other Richmond.

I was working sixty miles away on a very cold and blizzardish day; not that uncommon a thing. I drove out of town then onto a major highway. There was frequently ice and lots of blowing snow. They really did a good job keeping the highway clean and drivable, partly since it was a major trucking route. Canadians usually know how to drive in ice and deep snow.

One morning, the blowing snow was worse than usual. The first access ramp onto the highway was closed. So was the second. I had not missed a shift in twelve years. But something told me to turn around. I did so, called chagrined from home, apologizing profusely.

But I wouldn’t have made it to work. A line of cars and big trucks thirty miles long was stuck on the highway for hours and no one could go. The snow completely obscured the view for a full day. There were accidents galore. The police distributed blankets and food by snowmobile. Stuck truckers were better equipped and helped out when they could. Electric vehicles were very rare then. I was awful glad that I returned home.

I can’t imagine being stuck for 24 hrs. I get cranky if traffic is stopped for more than 30 minutes.

This is wild!

My father was a sales rep for a packaging company that manufactured bread bags. This company was one of his clients, and I definitely remember the last name of the owner.

A sad story about a motorist whose truck crashed in Monday night’s storm, tried to walk 6 miles home, got lost, and was found dead on Friday. From the map it looks like he was 15 miles or so from I-95.

That’s sad considering what we can now do with a cell phone and map software. I wonder if there are Uber people with 4x4’s who could have rescued him. Or hell, call 911 and give them your exact location.

This reminds me I need to throw a sleeping bag and shovel in the car.

Remember water and some food. You get cold if you eat snow for water and you need high calorie food to give your body energy to shiver. A couple of those lunch bags of chicken and tuna can make a huge difference. While I think that dark chocolate intake is the solution to many ills, chocolate doesn’t store well in a car trunk, but hard candies do.

As to cell phones, we live in the sticks. There are dead zones here. I can’t talk on my cell in the kitchen or front yard, I have to move to a back room or the back deck to talk. If I try to use my cell in the front yard, it keeps cutting out and the battery drains like crazy. It’s very possible the poor guy killed his battery trying to call for help or dropped it in the snow.