Drivers in Virginia found themselves stranded overnight after snow and traffic left a major section of I-95 deadlocked.
The highway was still closed on Tuesday morning between Exit 152 in Dumfries and Exit 104 in Carmel Church, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) said.
Authorities urged motorists to stay in their vehicles. If they are facing a medical or life safety emergency, people were told to call 911 and provide both the make and model of their vehicle and the nearest mile marker.
Cars stopped moving on the interstate on Monday and many drivers spent the night in their vehicles.
“We’ve been parked here for five hours south of Quantico,” Claire Hughes, a commuter, told WTOP. “We have seen no tow trucks, no broken down vehicles, no police trying to open lanes up. It’s just a standstill parking lot, it’s atrocious.”
“We’re hitting the point of no return. People are getting out of their cars, hiding behind their car doors & doing their business on the streets. There’s no place to go,” Susan Phalen, a former State Department adviser, said on CNN’s “New Day.”
“We know many travelers have been stuck on Interstate 95 in our region for extraordinary periods of time over the past 24 hours, in some cases since Monday morning,” a VDOT spokesperson told news outlets.
Traffic cameras showed a clogged roadway and multiple exits with vehicles blocking off-ramps.
The backup was originally caused by tractor-trailers getting stuck in the snow.
VDOT said snow plows and tow trucks were making progress on the jam, with crews planning to start taking people off at available interchanges.
“We are working to get traffic moving again as best we can using every available interchange between Prince William & Caroline counties,” it said in a statement.
The office of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, told news outlets in a statement that the stranded drivers were hearing an emergency message “connecting them to support, and the state is working with localities to open a warming shelter for passengers, as needed.”
“While sunlight is expected to help VDOT treat and clear roads, all Virginians must continue to avoid the interstate and follow directions of emergency personnel.”
Josh Lederman, an NBC reporter, was among those stuck. He said he couldn’t move his vehicle from where it was, on the interstate about 30 miles south of Washington, starting around 7 p.m. Monday.
Lederman reported Tuesday around 7 a.m. that the northbound lanes were moving but southbound was still deadlocked.
The region was hit by a snowstorm after over a week of warm temperatures. Some areas saw nearly a foot of snow.
The Virginia State Police reported receiving thousands of calls for service, including hundreds of traffic reports.