Thousands of stranded drivers cleared from snowbound Virginia highway

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Rescue crews in Virginia on Tuesday finished freeing the last of the travelers stranded overnight on a snowed-in highway, ending a crisis that had trapped thousands of people including U.S. Senator Tim Kaine.

Kaine’s routine commute from his Virginia home to Washington turned into a 27-hour ordeal when a blizzard made the road headed toward the nation’s capital impassable, stranding him and other motorists without food and water in the freezing cold.

A spokeswoman with the Virginia Department of Transportation confirmed the last motorists were freed, more than 24 hours after the storm.

Interstate 95, one of the busiest thoroughfares on the East Coast, was closed for hours in both directions near Fredericksburg, Virginia, about 55 miles (89 km) south of Washington. The region was blanketed by up to a foot (30 cm) of snow.

Traffic on the 47-mile (76-km) stretch of I-95 came to a standstill about 8 p.m. ET on Monday (0100 GMT on Tuesday) and did not begin moving again until Tuesday afternoon.

Kelly Hannon, a spokeswoman for the agency, said responders have also cleared the freeway of a number of abandoned cars and that officials expect it to reopen to motorists by Wednesday morning.

For hours overnight and well after daybreak, hundreds of tractor-trailer trucks and cars lined the snow-clogged roadway as their drivers grew increasingly desperate about their predicament and exasperated by what appeared to be a slow response by authorities.

Kaine, the 2016 Democratic nominee for vice president, was one of the many motorists caught up in the paralysis.

“I started my normal 2 hour drive to DC at 1 pm yesterday,” he posted on Twitter on Tuesday morning.

The senator finally arrived in Washington 27 hours after leaving Richmond, Virginia, his communications director said. Kaine told CNN he had nothing to eat or drink since setting out on Monday.

Jim DeFede, an investigative reporter with CBS 4 Miami, found himself stuck somewhere in Prince George County.

“Good morning from I-95 in Virginia where I have been trapped in my car for more than 20 hours,” he tweeted just after dawn. “I’m not sure, but I think I now qualify for Virginia residency.”

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