On Monday of this week, I first saw a couple of TikTok videos uploaded by commercial tractor truck drivers who were stuck on Interstate 95 in Virginia due to snow. Initially, I didn’t pay very much attention to their complaints, this same thing happens around here in mountainous areas of Wyoming and Montana.
On Tuesday evening I saw several more TikTok videos uploaded by ordinary men and women who were stuck on I-95 in Virginia, using the word “stranded” and giving times of 20 hours, 24 hours, 27 hours, without any assistance whatsoever. I thought that these people were just extremely unlucky. However on Wednesday there were even worse reports from people who had been stranded for as long as 37 hours, without anything to eat.
When I began paying closer attention on Tuesday to what was happening to people on Interstate 95 in Virginia, I had no difficulty understanding that traffic had come to a standstill due to snow and accidents, but I didn’t understand why Highway Patrol, Sheriffs, Police, Firefighters, Paramedics, Search & Rescue, tow-truck drivers, National Guard, and volunteers were not reaching people.
If you think about this, most motorists did not get stuck with a full tank of fuel. An idling vehicle uses about 1 gallon of fuel per hour. Half a tank of fuel for most vehicles is 8-10 gallons, which means that the vehicle could idle for 8-10 hours. But people were stuck on I-95 for 20-37 hours. The outside temperature was reported to be about 19 degrees Fahrenheit. People turned off their vehicles and started them intermittently to warm up, but who knew that their fuel had to last 20-37 hours?
It didn’t matter that some of the stranded motorists were elderly, or mothers with multiple small children, because people reported sitting there for as long as 8 hours without even seeing one Highway Patrol drive by. There was no assistance. People ran out of fuel, water, and food.
On a small scale, it was reported that some motorists shared food and water with strangers who didn’t have anything. And that people went to commercial truck drivers asking for food and water, believing that truck drivers had extra supplies in their sleeper cabs.
What I don’t understand, after living in Florida, Texas, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, and North Dakota, is why the road shoulders of I-95 didn’t look like the biggest monster-truck mud-run the World has ever seen? Besides the paved two-lanes of I-95, there should have been at least three lanes on either side of I-95 with Subarus, Ford Explorers, Jeeps, F150s, 4Runners, Land Cruisers, and Suburbans, trying to make it to the nearest off-ramp.
I am not joking about this. What is wrong with people? Once a person can see that traffic is backed up for miles and miles, with no movement, why isn’t that person looking at a map or their phone trying to determine where the nearest exit is, either before them or behind them?
For me, if I was stuck on I-95 for an hour, at a standstill, seeing miles of vehicles ahead of me, I would be planning on driving on the road shoulder either forward or backward to get to the nearest exit, nearest center median cross-over, the nearest field that led to a road, or an overpass with an embankment that I could traverse. I would probably wait for an hour, but there would come a point that I would try to leave. How could a person not begin to see, that there was no way that traffic was going to untangle in the next 2-4 hours, at a minimum?
I would recognize that not only was it an inconvenience to be sitting there, but recognize that this situation is not being fixed, this is not going to change any time soon, and that this could turn even worse. What happens when people start running out of fuel, water, food, the ability to stay warm?
I am very, very surprised that I have not seen any reports yet of anyone trying to force themselves into another person’s vehicle to try to get warm, take the vehicle, or take food and water, considering that people were stranded for as long as 37 hours.
On Thursday I did see a TikTok video of a full-size Chevy pickup blasting across the interstate median ditch to make it to the opposite side that was completely vacant, which caused another full-size pickup to follow this same path and do the same thing, in order to get out of there. Should have, could have other full-size four-wheel-drive trucks done this, stopped on the other side, offered for people to walk across the interstate to get a ride out of there?
Since the Highway Patrol, Sheriffs, Police, Firefighters, Paramedics, Search & Rescue, National Guard were not reaching stranded motorists, should local people with Suburbans etc. driven on the vacant opposite side of the interstate to go get motorists who needed help? Should property owners adjacent to the interstate directed people onto or across their property?
Even though I criticize North Dakota frequently, in a similar circumstance, about 50% of western North Dakotans would have rescued themselves along with the other 50% who were still stuck, even if it meant driving through a median ditch, cutting a fence, driving through a fence, driving the wrong way, getting buried in snow, getting out and digging, pulling other people out.
In contrast to how people sat there on I-95 in Virginia, here is a recent video of how people on I-15 in Arizona/Utah/Idaho/Montana handled a blocked interstate:
You can read about what happened in Virginia here: https://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/transportation/never-seen-anything-like-it-drivers-stranded-for-15-hours-on-i-95-in-virginia/2926464/