Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) blamed motorists for getting stuck overnight Monday in freezing temperatures on a gridlocked Interstate 95 as they were running out of food and fuel.
"We gave warnings, and people need to pay attention to these warnings, and the less people that are on the highways when these storms hit, the better," Northam told the Washington Post.
“I feel for these people that are stranded but just want to let them know we’re doing everything we can to get to them in a very challenging situation," the outgoing governor added to the paper.
But the Post spoke to motorists who asserted it wasn't their fault that Virginia officials didn't plan ahead.
Ronni Schorr told the paper that state agencies were “not at all” ready for the extended traffic jam and that she didn't see snow plows until Tuesday morning. Schorr added to the Post that she was stuck for 14 hours after a plow cleared an exit ramp on the other side of the highway.
“I’m not angry at the snow,” Schorr also told the paper. “I’m just upset at the way they handled it.”
What it was like to be stuck in the I-95 traffic jamyoutu.be
She added to the Post that the most frustrating thing was not getting a push alert on her phone until Tuesday morning: “In a world today when everybody’s got their cellphones with them, there was no information, there was nothing. If they were able to send an alert out this morning, why couldn’t they do that yesterday?”
Virginia state Sen. David W. Marsden (D) — who chairs the state Senate’s Transportation Committee — told the paper a “perfect storm” hampered a transportation department that's “one of the best-run in the country.”
Marsden added to the Post that the storm began with rain, which made it impossible to pretreat roads before colder weather brought sleet and then snow.
“It was a catastrophe for people,” he added to the paper. “Our road guys are first-rate, and I’ve never heard of anything quite like this occurring in Virginia.”
However, Stafford County Board Chair Crystal Vanuch (R) told the Post that VDOT and state officials made “mistake after mistake” and should have declared a state of emergency.
“It seems like they weren’t taking it seriously,” Vanuch added to the paper. “It seems like they didn’t think it was the emergency that it was.”
How did others react to Northam?
It appears the governor didn't receive a lot of support for pointing fingers at the stranded motorists:
Others couldn't have agreed more:
- "So your excuse is that rain prevented the VA DOT from pre-treating. Ok makes sense. But here’s the thing, NY and the NE 95 corridor have rain to snow and yet [our] DOTs can manage?" one Twitter user asked. "This sounds more like incompetent leadership in VA."
- "Could have been done way sooner to prevent a lot of pain and suffering if you had called for help from the National Guard who you yourself said was standing by and ready," another commenter noted. "Why not utilize them and cut all this in half? BTW my street is now on hour 20 of no power/heat. Great work"
- "Good ol' Ralph had to screw Virginians over one last time before he left," another user said.
- "You really dropped the ball on this one! I guess this happens when you have one foot inside the door and one foot outside the door. Seems like you didn’t care if all these people were stranded for such a long time on I-95. I bet a lot of Virginians are counting the days!" another commenter said.
- "You failed, Governor. This is what you’ll be remembered for. The beginning and the end is what people remember the most. THAT part you should care about," another user declared. "Clearly you don’t care about the people who were stuck in this terrible situation. Shame on you for how you handled this."
But given that Northam's still in charge — Youngkin will take office Jan. 15 — the blame-Youngkin crowd got a dose of truth soon enough.