Why Can’t Virginia Handle Snow? The I-95 and Amtrak Fiascos

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By Aden Tate

The snow of a white Christmas can quickly turn into a powdery nightmare when it comes to getting back home, and this was exhibited perfectly on Virginia’s I-95 earlier this past week. It was here in Virginia that the world witnessed not just one, but several snow-related transportation disasters which left thousands of people stranded without bathrooms, food, or water.

What can we learn from this? Are there lessons to glean? Let’s take a closer look…

The I-95 Fiasco

The chief weather-related incident of note this past week is the I-95 fiasco. After 11” of snow fell on parts of Virginia, roads became an absolute mess. And the road that became the biggest mess of all was I-95.

It was on this road that the interstate was reduced from a route of passage to a parking lot. An over 40-mile-long parking lot. This all began after a semi-truck jackknifed on the ice causing a blockage.

Ordinarily, a semi blocking a highway is a relatively straightforward occurrence. It happens all the time. But for some reason, this blockage wasn’t able to be removed in a timely manner. The end result was thousands of people being trapped on the interstate for upwards of 19 hours.

Many of these motorists would be stuck overnight on the I-95 as temperatures plunged into the low 20s. Marvin Romero was one of these drivers. Along with his two little girls – one 8 and the other 10 – Marvin spent the night sleeping in his car on the interstate, trapped for 20 hours.

One driver was attempting to get to an essential surgery in Massachusetts by the next morning. It’s dubious they made it in time. Claire Hughes, yet another trapped driver would say, “We’ve been parked here for five hours south of Quantico. 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.” [source]

People ran out of food and water, and due to being forced to stall for hours upon end, many ran out of gas as well. People began to abandon their vehicles as they sought for information, restrooms, food, or shelter.

Thankfully, no deaths have been reported as a result of such.

It is interesting to point out that it wasn’t the government stepping in to help feed the people trapped on the taxed roads, but good Samaritans instead. The National Guard had actually been placed on standby by Virginia’s Democrat Governor Ralph Northam. It’s unclear whether they actually ever did anything or not.

Schmidt Baking Company had a delivery truck full of bread and rolls trapped on I-95 as well. The company began passing out its products for free to those trapped around the truck.

Some of the nearby fellow drivers estimated that they hadn’t eaten in roughly 37 hours before Schmidt Baking Company stepped in to fill the need. (You can tell them how awesome they are HERE.)

The Lynchburg Amtrak

Sunday, Amtrak’s Crescent Train 20 left New Orleans as it headed north towards its end destination of New York. And then it reached Lynchburg, Virginia.

It was just north of this city that the train came to a standstill on Monday morning when it was discovered that the snowstorm had felled several trees – blocking the tracks. Passengers on the train were trapped. And things weren’t going to get any better anytime soon.

Where the passengers were trapped is a relatively remote area without cell reception. Passengers had a difficult – if not impossible – time contacting their families.

The train finally backed up, returning to the Lynchburg train station roughly around midnight. And there it sat until Tuesday morning.

Passengers aboard the trapped train reported disgusting conditions as the toilets quickly became backed up and overflowed, with the passenger cars reeking of the smell of raw sewage.

Other passengers would later report that the train ran out of food on Monday, and nobody was offered anything to eat until a McDonald’s showed up to the train mid-morning on Tuesday.

One passenger would say, “All we’ve been told is there are trees on the tracks preventing us from moving forward. 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.” [source]

Trapped in a poop-scented cabin without food with plenty of other frustrated passengers? Sounds like a recipe for a good time.

The train finally left on Tuesday afternoon.

What can the prepper learn from this?

This once more underscores the importance of being well prepared for disaster. If you’re going to go out on a long-distance trip – especially in perilous weather – you cannot succumb to the normalcy bias that this trip will just be like every other trip you’ve ever been on.

“Well, I’ve never been trapped on an interstate in frigid temperatures before overnight. Why should I prepare? What are the odds?”

Let this serve as a cautionary tale to such objections. For as the events of this past week have illustrated, the odds may be pretty high indeed. Make sure to check out our free QUICKSTART GUIDE to figure out just what you need to do to survive these types of conditions.

Also, tune in tomorrow to hear about Rachel’s experience spending 16 hours trapped on I95.

You never know when disaster may strike.

So, consider this before making any long-distance plans in the near future. Do you have what you need? Do you have contingency plans? Do you have alternate routes mapped out? Can you keep your phones charged, your bellies fed, and your vehicle running?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

About Aden

Aden Tate has a master’s in public health and is a regular contributor to TheOrganicPrepper.com, TheFrugalite.com, PewPewTactical.comSurvivalBlog.comSHTFBlog.comApartmentPrepper.comHomesteadAndPrepper.com, and PrepperPress.com. Along with being a freelance writer, he also works part-time as a locksmith. Aden has an LLC for his micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has two published books, The Faithful Prepper and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American on Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.

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Aden Tate

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  • Reliance on .Gov will result in failure.
    Personal responsibility should be number one. Make your own decisions and have your own plans.

    Full tanks, proper clothes, don’t do it unless you have to in weather, go bags, maps with alternative routes, etc.

    Drive a proper vehicle and an equipped one as well. Cute cars don’t cut it. Looks don’t save.

    If you know your getting a foot of snow and ice then don’t be dumb.

    Even when traveling listen to/look at the weather. Everyone’s on their phones all the time anyway so LOOK. Get off ticktock.

  • that old cow Nancy is no lady she is a thief, and everyone knows it, the entire nation is full of government thieves ,of course they steal the maintaince money, hire aliens, and rape babies it is their nature, thousands want their job benefits doing no real work, if they are removed more will repopulate their ranks almost instantly.
    a broken clock or a rusty old computer could do a much better job, of running the USA, there was NO Mega there is NO virus. Wake the fuck up woke is deadly wrong.
    Negrophiliacs will kill you.

  • Since teleworking, my go- bag has gathered dust. And definitely have ignored setting my commuting husband up. So good warning and reminder.

  • That’s insane. God bless Schmidt Baking Co.

    I lived in Houston during Hurricane Rita, and needed to pick up my then-husband from the airport. I’d seen stories on the news about people being stranded in their cars for hours at a time, trying to evacuate the city. I lived about 45 minutes away from Bush, but it was looking like it was taking between 4 and 8 hours go that distance through town, so I packed my little truck full of snacks, drinks, with a couple empty bottles to pee in if I needed to.

    As it happened, the police were only allowing local traffic on the Beltway, so I was actually able to get to the airport in no time at all. But it didn’t hurt me at all to have all that extra stuff in my truck. Better by a long shot to have it and not need it. . .

    • My girlfriend and I lived in Houston during Rita. Complete panic a month after Katrina! She lived on I-45 near the South Belt and I lived in the Memorial area. I told her to pack her stuff and stay with me. She packed food for the day and started out at 5AM, taking side roads northward, paralleling 45. Once she hit 610 it was clear. She made the 25 mile drive to my house in a half hour.

      Since I wasn’t expecting her, I damn near jumped out of my skin when someone started ringing my bell and knocking on my door at 5:30. Needless to say, we got engaged during Rita and married eight months later!

      • I worked in Humble (a suburb of Houston) for a doctor when Rita threatened Houston. He let us leave early on the day before the storm was to hit. My husband was out of town in California. The doctor told me not to try to weather the storm alone, to get my Mom and my cat and come to the office because we were connected to the hospital and there would be emergency power, food and security.
        So, I went home. (East of Lake Houston). The road was packed with people going North and West. Smooth travel toward my house.
        Having been through hurricanes before, I did what I could to get ready without my husband there. He flew in late that night and drove East from Bush airport and made it home. The next day he boarded up our windows and we got ready. The road out of our subdivision was too packed to even consider travel back to my office.
        I honestly have to admit I thought we may not survive the storm and I wrote letters to my loved ones and put them in the gun safe.
        As it turned out, the storm hit further East than thought and we only had a glancing blow from Rita.
        I was prepared for the hit with water and food, extra batteries and so forth.

  • I used to travel just 13 miles to work, in rural Maine, many months in winter. I had a “get home, keep me warm and fed” bag. Coworkers ridiculed me. One morning I had to call work and tell them I was actually stuck in traffic!! Winter storm had caused a pile up and roads were so bad police weren’t letting anyone move until salt trucks showed up.
    Moral of the story – I had 3/4 tank of gas,warm clothes,etc.Others ran out of gas and were no doubt freezing. I also was in a 4 wheel drive truck with studded tires.

  • I understand Amtrak having a tree issue, but why didn’t they have a plan to remove the trees? Government-run trains for ya. Ditto with I-95. I know it snows in Virginia… I’ve driven through it (on I-81, though). They had no salt/sand trucks or snowplows, and no large vehicle wreckers available?

    Sad and pathetic.

  • great article i live here and 2 miles from I95. virginia knew this storm was coming. just Bad management.
    got another tonight. 2-5″
    we will see.

  • I keep track of the weather. My wife says weather is “boring.” No Dear, keeping track of the weather prevents being one of the people trapped on a snow-covered freeway. Bottom line, acquiring knowledge is prepping as well.

    I keep track of my own weather, using radio and televised “weather reports” only as rough guidance. The MSM has sensationalized weather for the sake of ratings and the promulgation of the “climate change” agenda. It’s no longer a “blue northern,” but a BOMB CYCLONE. It’s no longer a wet cold front coming in, but an ATMOSPHERIC RIVER. I believe a lot of those people who got stuck did so because they were jaded by MSM weather reports. “Yeah, they always say it’s the end of the world, and then all we get is half an inch of snow.” It’s the classic “crying wolf” scenario. Take a minute each day to check the weather maps to get a better look at what’s coming at you!

  • Virginia is not a stranger to snow. This is just pure ignorance and government incompetence here.

    So you couldn’t get off at the next exit and wait it out and the Motel? Sometimes Darwin gets a near miss.

    • Those of us who have lived and worked in and around the DC region, knows full well I95, the other highways, the belt, even regular streets, can and do become parking lots, even in the best of conditions.

      In 2010, the DC area was going to get hit with a snowstorm. I sent everyone home at 3pm, and even then it was messy.
      Same thing then happened as it did in this snowstorm: traffic at a stand still. People ran out of gas, abandoned cars littered the highway. More than a few turned around if they could, went back to work and spent the night there. People living in that area do not buy “aggressive” snow tires as it is not worth the extra cost for something that may or may not happen but once a year if that.

      Same thing goes for VA DOT. They have a few snow plows, but not a fleet like states in the higher latitudes. They do not stockpile salt, for that matter I saw them using sand once. They just do not factor these kind of events into their budgets.

      There are stretches of major highways with miles in between exits. Jack knife a 18-wheeler across the road, no one is going nowhere, never mind the weather.

  • We lived in Richmond for years and my husband would say that once there was snow on the ground all cars headed for a ditch. Coming from upstate NY we were baffled. Virginia didn’t get a lot of snow although we had plenty of ice but every few years we would get buried.

  • When I lived in Montana, I never left the house without a truck full of food, water, blankets, warm clothes, a rope, and sand and cardboard to get me out of a stuck in snow situation. I never needed it, but if I had, I’d have been fine!

  • I started working with Red Cross in 1965 my freshman year in high school. I took all the training I could and when I was 21, I responded to disasters around the Mid-West, East coast and Gulf. The Blizzard of 1978 comes to mind. Everything shut down and nothing moved except custom trucks built up like mine. I have been doing this for decades, Fire/EMS, Search and Rescue, Law Enforcement, Emergency Management and their CERT program which I am a TTT for the program. CERT is a great program to take.
    BOTTOM LINE, It is what gear/equipment you have with you and what sits between your ears.
    In most all cases it will be your fellow human beings and your local rescuers that will come to your rescue before Government gets involved.
    A few years back here in North Idaho, we had a SAR event that lasted for hours in the dead of winter in the back country. We brought what we needed, but it was that neighborhood that came to our rescue with fuel, food, and water, you can only carry so much. This neighborhood had a phone system set up for an alert to get them on board with what is going on. I am thankful for the folks that just ask what do you need and they get it to us and support us as well.
    The end of the Mountain rescue story, one of the young people in the group of several tracked ATVs and UTVs all stuck, had a app on her phone and she was able to sent us their exact location. I carry a SOS device that alerts the Airforce if myself or team is in trouble, they alert my County Team and it gives my location. Get the gear you need, train with it and get you Ham liscense so you can reach out for help with their is no cell service.
    Happy New Year
    Ranger Rick
    Automatic Survivor Training Group
    North Idaho

    • Ranger RIck, that SOS device is a great idea. Many modern cars and truck have security/crash alert systems that can be contacted for help too.

  • Iine in the northern 1/3 of New Mexico. I-40 crosses established to west here. It used to be poorly tended in winter. Now much better.
    Two weeks ago the alternator went out in my pickup truck. My son and I were stuck almost 12 hours without power on an 11° night. Comedy of errors had AAA sending a tow truck to a place in Albuquerque. We were 18 miles from Albuquerque along I-40.
    Normally i have snacks, water, blankets etc in the truck. We should have home by dark but that didn’t happen. Everything had been set out of the truck because my son had been using it for moving. He didn’t even have a jacket with him. It was a “quick” trip to the city.
    It became a miserable night. Thankfully I could call a neighbor for help. She showed up with a warm car, a jacket, and 2 blankets. She sat with us till 2 am. Then I sent her home taking my son to let the dogs into our homes and he came back with his car a couple of hours later. We sat in his warm car. The two hours alone in the cold truck were miserable.
    Makes me appreciate my usual preparations. Winter travel, even without a big storm, calls for being prepared, just in case.
    Even travelers on the train, if they had had a small go bag with snacks, water, folded TP, and a trashbag, would have been much more comfortable.

    • “It was a ‘quick’ trip to the city”

      this is where humans spend .9 of their life – “it’s just a short/small/insignificant thing, nothing will happen”. usually it’s true.

      always tell my kids when they’re getting into a car, “wear shoes. if there’s a problem you don’t know what you’ll have to step out into.”

  • Not seen here (yet) in the comments was something I’d heard about years ago when driving up to the Twin Cities at Christmastime: an empty tuna can + tea lights. They last about 4 hours and put out a tiny amount of heat, which is better than nothing. You’d make a lot of friends if you also had a roll of TP.

  • Reminds me of a time my truck got stuck in a wash in the desert. My rear right axle was buried in the sand. I called the Forestry service who connected me to the Sheriff’s department. I gave them my location and waited. I called AAA,told them where I was and waited. Meanwhile, the hours passed. Getting dark and cold,running out of water. Finally, a Good Samaritan came by and after pushing pulling and dragging,I was out. AAA couldn’t find me,Sheriff Deputy couldn’t find me. Even when I gave them the grids. Now, I carry chains,banket,water,and some protein bars.

  • I guess this is what happens when you terminate essential employees because of vaccine mandates. No one shows up to help during an emergency.

    • I get that they don’t want people getting lost during a winter storm, but allowing people to go pee in the trees would have been a really good idea.

      And what the hell is this noise about “not allow?” Were the doors and windows barred?

  • For years I have kept a bug-out bag/backpack in the trunk of my car with water, nuts, canned food, candles, medicine, spare eyeglasses, money, crowbar, etc. Also a warm fleece, sleeping bag & blanket. Thank God haven’t had to use it as of yet.

  • I think the most hilarious report I heard was a bunch of people commenting “How do you like your new Republican governor’?
    Problem is we still have our existing Democrat governor for another week or so.
    BTW: he allegedly made some comment blaming it on January 6th and something about the National Guard.
    Nice being retired. Don’t have to face that mess.

  • I agree with Matt.

    I’ve been carrying a full size backpack (not a daypack) in the trunk of my car for decades. It has self heating MRE’s, water, a water filtration device, a sleeping bag, Heavy duty Mylar blankets, nylon cord, a single burner cook stove (useful for boiling water for hot chocolate or coffee, or for preparing any freeze dried foods), an emergency radio, flashlight, TP, plastic bags for trash and sanitary deposits (see TP), windproof matches, a Buck Pathfinders knife, and loads of other useful items. Now that pack even has a fold out solar panel for charging my cell phone–though the emergency radio has a crank that can do the same thing.

    When I lived in Colorado that pack saved my wife and I and others we were stranded with from discomfort on more than one occasion. I know Scouting isn’t really in fashion anymore, which I consider to be a real shame, but Be Prepared is a good motto to live by.

    The way I was raised, it is a man’s duty to protect and provide for his family. Being prepared is simply part of that duty.

  • Bottom line….always be prepared, as best you can.

    I live in “Free Florida”, we visit kids about 2.5 hours each way. I never leave without a full tank of fuel. We have a go bag, has water, food bars, small FAK, etc. We also have rain coats and a paper road map book under the backseat. You should always have a little cash on hand, small denominations for when debit/credit cards don’t work.

    I check the go bag every couple months to remind myself whats in there and replace items as needed.

    Recently bought a battery pack to charge cell phones and keep that in the truck also, just have to remember to recharge it from time to time.

    I assume no one will ever be able to help me in a crisis such as the story above.

    Personal protection is always a good idea, just be properly trained and have the right mindset and you can survive most situations.

    As a plus its always good if someone knows where you are going and how you are getting there with an ETA so when you are overdue the search is limited.

  • Let’s see – you can’t fix stupid. While weather reports aren’t perfect, they are pretty darn close. The number of idiots who travel despite being warned, no sympathy and suck down tax dollars.
    Unfortunately since the Teamsters no longer exist, no one to stand up for the truckers and get them off the roads when weather is bad. My state will institute a trailer ban (wind) when necessary but not all states do.
    The person allegedly on the road for necessary surgery *may* get a pass. But again, traveling north (and really, couldn’t get the surgery closer to home – oh yeah, likely Covidiots).
    Ice and snow are not anything new in states south of the Mason-Dixon. And not new that despite an increase in this type of weather, said states do nothing to prepare. Garbage trucks can double as plows and likely spread salt. Raise income taxes to provide basic services. The National Guard should *not* be the ones to deal with a minor weather event.

    • Can’t fix stupid is right.
      Despite warnings from meteorologists, out going Governor Northham (D) did nothing to prepare VA for the snow storm. He even went out of his way to try to blame VA residents for their part in his lack of leadership and management.

      Ice and snow may not be new, but it is something of a rarity. People do not have actual snow tires (all weather does not count in a snow storm). Some of them have never had to drive in snow.

      Yes, raising taxes is always the solution to a gross governmental problem.

  • During the winter I keep two big totes full of winter clothing, gloves, mittens, boots and blankets in the truck.

    They spend the winter in there. I also have another backpack with some other winter clothing, it comes in and out.

    A Coleman SurvivalCat propane heater and 4 one pound bottles of propane are always in the truck.

    A cheap backpack with 20 to 30 pounds of hand warmers, foot warmers, toe warmers and body warmers also makes it’s way into the truck come winter.

    A tool box with tow straps, traction aids, etc is usually in there as well.

    Two shovels and 40 pounds of sand complete the winter gear list.

    If I’m going anywhere outside my normal routine food and water plus sleeping bags get tossed in.

    It isn’t worth the chance to not have a full kit in the winter around here.

  • Time to get my winter provisions in the car. A case of water 2 big bags full of blankets and updated food, a battery operated hot pot for water, etc. I travel 200 miles alone on the interstate regularly. I need to be prepared. Especially as a senior with several health issues.

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