FREDERICKSBURG, Va. – Sen. Tim Kaine says he is among the hundreds of drivers who have been stranded on Interstate 95 in Virginia since Monday after a winter storm dumped more than a foot of snow across parts of the mid-Atlantic.
Kaine says he started his two-hour drive from Virginia into Washington around 1 p.m. Monday and was stranded for more than 27 hours.
On Tuesday morning, Kaine spoke with FOX Weather and said he was about 40 miles from Washington. He estimated he still had another 2 to 3 hours left in his journey.
"I had a meeting last night that I wanted to do in person, and it has turned into kind of a survival thing," he said. "Thank goodness I have a warm coat and had a full tank of gas."
Kaine said he saw several cars filled with families and senior citizens alongside his that had slid off the road or ran out of gas.
"It was a wet snow, and as soon as the sun went down, it turned to ice, and so it was very, very challenging," he said. "There were periods of five or six hours that we were just basically in the middle of the night, stopped in the middle of the interstate and not moving. I travel I-95 all the time. I will never forget this. I've never seen anything like it."
Kaine said he did have blankets in his car but was able to use the heater to stay warm.
"When it's clear that the traffic is stopped and going to be stopped, I heat up the car with the heater inside and then I turned the vehicle off for about an hour to save gas," he said. "The real problem is if you run out of gas between off-ramps, not only is that horrible for you, but then the car becomes a block for everyone else trying to get through these narrow, icy and snowy passages."
He said he did have food and water, but "I'm trying to reduce eating and drinking because there are no bathrooms anywhere."
And even though it's been a challenging situation, people are in good spirits.
"In the middle of the night, when it was really cold, you get out of the car to stretch your legs and point out constellations to each other."
Kaine said he spoke with a family from Connecticut who was on their way home from a Florida vacation who took their bag of oranges and handed them out to people who had nothing to eat.
And while traffic is starting to move slowly, he still had a long way to go to get to Washington.
"I got to Fredericksburg, a town sort of halfway between Richmond and D.C. around 4:30 a.m., so it took me 15-and-a-half hours to just basically go 55 miles," he said. "I was able to get gas there at 4:30 a.m., but now it's 10:30. So in six hours since I got gas, I bet I've gone less than 15 miles."
Kaine said he has seen snowplows trying to clear snow and ice from the highway.
"I've seen crews, snowplows, emergency vehicles, ambulances making medical calls," he said. "I just got to a turnoff, and I got off the interstate on a side road because portions of the interstate north are completely closed."
Kaine made it to Capitol Hill 27 hours after he started his drive. According to his communications director, he was "still in good spirits!"
"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. This is unprecedented, and we continue to steadily move stopped trucks to make progress toward restoring lanes. In addition to clearing the trucks, we are treating for snow and several inches of ice that has accumulated around them to ensure that when the lanes reopen, motorists can safely proceed to their destination," Marcie Parker, P.E. VDOT Fredericksburg District Engineer, said in a statement.
Virginia State Police on Monday urged drivers to stay off the roads to allow for crews to remove snow and only travel in an emergency. By Monday afternoon, state troopers had responded to hundreds of crashes and reports of stuck and disabled vehicles.
The Virginia Department of Transportation had also warned drivers to avoid I-95 in the Fredericksburg area after several tractor-trailers crashed, causing miles of backups.