1 of 2 | Virginia State Police direct traffic at an emergency crossover to get traffic moving from Interstate 95 in Caroline County, Va., Tuesday, after a snow storm shut down the highway. Photo courtesy of Virginia State Police/Twitter
Jan. 4 (UPI) -- The Virginia Department of Transportation said Interstate 95 was cleared Tuesday evening after hundreds of motorists were stranded on the roadway for 27 hours.
"There are no people stranded still on I-95," the Fredericksburg branch of the VDOT wrote on Twitter at 5:15 p.m. "Less than 20 vehicles left to be removed from the interstate before plow trains will come through to remove snow and ice from the travel lanes."
Officials said the closed section of I-95 will reopen by Wednesday morning's rush hour.
No traffic-related injuries or deaths were reported as a result of the shutdown.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said the rainfall that preceded a snow and ice storm washed away any chemicals or salt used to pretreat the roads.
"First we had rain, which meant that we couldn't adequately pretreat the roads. Then we had slushy snow that fell a lot faster than our snow plows could move it," Northam said.
"And then, as night fell, the temperatures dropped below freezing. All those together created the perfect storm for what happened on I-95."
In addition to the weather, multiple tractor-trailers jack-knifed on the highway.
Throughout the stoppage some people stranded on the roadway were running out of gas. Some didn't have food or water. Some were transporting family members with medical issues.
Sophia Colson told The Washington Post she was stranded with a diabetic brother and her 63-year-old aunt, who needs oxygen.
Colson said she has seen elderly people fall along the road in snow and ice as some people abandoned their vehicles.
Northam told Washington's News4 TV that "non-stop" efforts were deployed to help people who were stranded along a 48-mile stretch of I-95 near Fredericksburg, between Richmond and Washington, D.C.
By Tuesday afternoon, southbound traffic was still not moving, though the northbound flow was slowly progressing.
"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," Marcie Parker, VDOT Fredericksburg district engineer, said in a news release.
"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."
Workers aimed to guide the stranded vehicles to nearby interchanges, where they can access alternate routes, Parker said.
Anne Gould told NBC News that traffic stopped on Monday afternoon and by about 6:20 a.m. Tuesday, she had only moved a few car lengths.
"There's cars and trucks as far as I can see behind me, and in front of me, and it's looked like this for 12 hours," she said.
People were tweeting from the standstill about having kids in the car and running low on gas.
U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, who tweeted he was stuck on the highway for more than 27 hours before arriving back in Washington, D.C., said a Connecticut family returning from Florida handed out oranges to fellow stranded motorists.
Firefighters in Prince William County handed out blankets and water bottles as road crews worked to free the backed-up vehicles.
More than 278,000 people in Virginia were without power due to the storm, which struck the Mid-Atlantic region on Monday.
Crews were trying to clear downed trees from the interstate that were impeding snowplow progress, but were battling high winds that continued to topple other trees.
The heavy winter storm hit the Washington, D.C., area, including Virginia, on Monday, closing schools and government offices. Power outages hit roughly 500,000 people.
As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 240,000 customers were still without power in Virginia.
Forecasters say another winter storm could hit the Midwest and Northeast later this week.
The U.S. Capitol is seen through snow-covered trees as a winter storm hits the Mid-Atlantic region covering Washington, D.C., on Monday. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo