Virginia governor blindsided by weather and defended NOT deploying the National Guard
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam defended his failure to deploy the National Guard to rescue the hundreds of motorists stranded 27 hours on I-95 in freezing conditions without food or water by admitting that authorities were blindsided by the ‘unusual weather’.
‘We all need to be clear that this was an incredibly unusual event,’ Northam said at the conference, noting that the winter storm started as rain on Monday morning, meaning the roads couldn’t be pretreated the night before.
The road originally became impassable around 8.30am Monday when six tractor-trailers jackknifed in the winter storm and triggered a chain reaction, causing a day-long pile-up along the 50-mile stretch of the I-95 just south of Washington, DC.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam admitted in a press conference Tuesday afternoon that he was blindsided by the winter weather and his response was the best he could do
As the day drew on and temperatures plummeted into the teens and twenties, unusually heavy snowfall then dumped nearly a foot of snow onto the road and other vehicles lost control and blocked lanes in both directions of I-95.
Cars didn’t begin to move freely down the interstate until late Tuesday afternoon, after some travelers had already spent more than a day stranded in their vehicles without basic needs, bathrooms or the National Guard to help them.
Northam reassured at the conference that he understood the drivers’ ‘frustration and fear’ but did not mention why he didn’t employ the military reserve to help anyone.
Northam had put the Guard on stand by, but said deploying them would not have been an ‘immediate solution’ to the crisis.
‘Remember that our guard members have day jobs. In fact, as you all remember last January 6, we sent the National Guard to help at the Capitol after the insurrection, but it was the next day before they were able to arrive.’
The roads were covered with a sheet of ice on Tuesday as temperatures dipped into the teens and twenties overnight – which is expected to happen again on Wednesday
A fire engine rested on the side of the road after sliding off in Tuesday’s icy conditions
Hundreds of motorists were stuck in the snow for more than 27 hours along a 50-mile stretch of I-95 in Virginia after a crash involving six tractor-trailers
As of 3.30pm Monday, Virginia State Police had responded to more than 2,000 calls for service due to treacherous road conditions
There were no reported deaths or injuries from the calamity on I-95 but plenty of outrage from motorists, some of whom were stranded overnight Monday into Tuesday, remained unsatisfied with the governor.
Earlier in the day, it appeared as though Northam was simply hoping the sun would help melt the snow and clear traffic. ‘Sunlight is expected to help @VaDOT clear the road,’ he said on Twitter.
But Jim DeFede, who had been stuck on the interstate just south of Quantico for 24 hours, called I-95 ‘a complete parking lot’ on Tuesday morning and was growing angry as others were getting desperate.
‘We have to find a way to get national guard here. Diabetics and babies down here. People are going die here,’ a friend told NBC’s Joe Scarborough.
DeFede took to Twitter to share that his woes were only answered by notifications that emergency personnel were on their way but no one seemed to follow through on the promise until hours later.
‘I don’t know who’s in charge but somebody better do something because there are cars and families just trapped here this entire time and nobody seems to be coming. I haven’t seen a state trooper in at least 12 hours. I haven’t seen a tow truck in at least 14 hours,’ DeFede said in a video posted to Twitter.
The snowstorm dumped nearly a foot of snow onto the roads, causing drivers to get stuck without food, water and gas for more than 19 hours and counting
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) confirmed both directions of I-95 remained shut down between Ruther Glen, Virginia, in Caroline County and exit 152 in Dumfries, Prince William County, as of Tuesday morning
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said that the state police, Department of Transportation (DOT) and Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) have ‘been working throughout the night’
More than 400,000 customers remained without electricity on Tuesday as travelers remained stranded on I-95
In the Fredericksburg area, some of the drivers who were stranded on Monday by the severe weather conditions still reported that they were stuck as of sunrise on Tuesday – some due to disabled trucks
People were seen getting out of their car to stretch their legs after being stranded in their cars overnight
Four hours later he said: ‘I’m free – sort of. Prince William Fire Rescue guided the cars and trucks back to an newly opened exit and then I was routed North on I95. Now I’m trying to get off 95 and figure out my next move. But thank you to the Fire Rescue folks. Much appreciated.’
The I-95 opened back up just after 9.30pm Tuesday.
Meanwhile, furious travelers were even asking if governor-elect Glenn Youngkin could be sworn into office before he was originally scheduled to on January 15, as they called Northam an ’embarrassment of a governor’ and a ‘fool’ for not sending out the National Guard.
‘Youngkin hasn’t been sworn in yet. Come back in about ten days and if those people are still stranded I bet he’ll do something about it,’ one person tweeted.
Northam seemingly went missing after a single tweet about deploying state and local emergency personnel was posted at 8.17am.
It wasn’t until around noon on Tuesday that the temperature reached above freezing and the icy conditions began to melt away.
Dozens of others spoke out, saying they were hungry and cold without the proper supplies while expressing their frustrations that the National Guard was not being deployed to help them
People on Twitter called Northam an ’embarrassment of a governor’ and a ‘fool’ for not sending out the National Guard to help drivers who have been stranded in their cars without food or water for nearly 24 hours
A day after the crash, people are now wondering if governor-elect Glenn Youngkin could be sworn into office before he was originally scheduled to on January 15
People, including former VP candidate and Virginia State Senator Tim Kaine, grew worried as they approached nearly a full 24 hours stuck in their car without food and water
Off the roads, some 220 passengers aboard Amtrak’s Crescent 20, which departed from New Orleans on Sunday morning, have yet to arrive at New York City more than three days later due to the effects of snowstorm Frida and Covid staff shortages.
The train stopped in Lynchburg, Virginia, on Monday morning due to trees falling on the track and stayed there for more than 40 hours.
Passengers were stuck on the train for so long that toilets overflowed, food began running out and travelers did their best to stay sane during the hellish delay.
The Crescent 20 eventually departed Lynchburg on Tuesday, at 5pm, and made its way to Washington DC, where it has remained Tuesday night before merging with another train on Wednesday morning in Baltimore.
The train is scheduled to arrive in New York City’s Penn Station this Wednesday afternoon.
The storm, which caused major delays aboard other Amtrak trains and on the road in Virginia’s I-95 highway, was only part of the problem, the other being a communication’s failure by Amtrak amid staffing shortages caused by Covid-19.
Passengers also complained about being left in the dark, with little information about what was happening.
Lavita Booker, who has been documenting her journey on Facebook, said Amtrak simply dropped the ball and failed her and the other passengers aboard the Crescent 20.
‘There’s over 200 and some people on this train. We are stuck. We’ve been stuck for 22 hours. This is totally ridiculous,’ she said during her stay in Lynchburg.
Booker posted a follow-up video as the train finally started moving as she knocked on wood, hoping to make it to Washington DC.
Her third video showed her rejoicing at a hotel in the capitol, saying she would take a long bath and rest up for the journey to come on Wednesday.
Sean Thorton also told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that they were without food, functioning toilets and desperate for information from the railroad as to what would happen next.
‘All we’ve been told is there are trees on the tracks preventing us from moving forward,’ Thornton said on Tuesday when the train was stuck in Lynchburg.
‘Nobody has eaten for about 20 hours and the toilets in coach are completely backed up. The snack bar sold out of food yesterday. Passengers have been banned from leaving the train.
‘We would all be more comfortable just knowing whatever Amtrak knows about the number of trees on the tracks, stations the train can move to, information like that,’ added Thornton, who is traveling with a child.
Snow storm Frida knocked down trees on top of railways in Virginia on Monday, causing Amtrak trains to stall, with the Crescent 20 trip going from 30 hours to more than 74 hours
Passengers were trapped for so long they were reduced to creating arts and crafts projects
Lavita Booker (left) said she and about 200 other passengers aboard the Amtrak Crescent were stuck for more than 30 hours in Lynchburg, Virginia