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Virginia senator recounts being stuck on I-95 for more than 20 hours after winter storm

By Chandelis Duster and Paul LeBlanc, CNN

Sen. Tim Kaine on Tuesday recounted his hours-long journey on a Washington-area highway after a winter storm crippled the region and left hundreds, including the Virginia Democrat, stranded for hours on roads.

“At some point it switched from a miserable travel day into kind of a survival mode day for me. And, you know, the roads are incredibly slick, and my car is sliding around, and I don’t have food or drink in my car, so I was more focused on, ‘OK, how do I safely get out of this mess,’ ” Kaine told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota by phone of his 27 hours stuck in traffic on Interstate 95.

“But I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of questions: Was it weather forecasting? Was it inadequate pretreatment of roads? But I would just say that the snow is very heavy and very wet, and when that happens, as soon as the sun goes down, that slush turns to ice on a cold day, and that’s what happened last night, and that’s what brought everything to a standstill.”

He reached the US Capitol later Tuesday, telling reporters the trip was anything but “boring.”

“You have to figure out the strategy, and it’s like, turn on the heater full blast, heat the car up, turn it off and then try to catch some sleep. In about 20 or 30 minutes it gets so cold in the car, then you have to do it again,” he said, adding: “You’re like trying to keep fuel. You’re trying to research what you can about what the roads will be like when the sun comes up. So it wasn’t boring.”

The Democrat wrote on Twitter that he had started driving to Washington at 1 p.m. ET on Monday and as of 8:27 a.m. Tuesday, “19 hours later, I’m still not near the Capitol.” He also wrote that his office was speaking with the Virginia Department of Transportation to help other stranded motorists.

“I’m frustrated, but not in serious trouble. If you are in trouble on Virginia roads today, call @VaDOT at 1-800-FOR-ROAD,” Kaine later tweeted.

Since Monday, hundreds of vehicles have been stuck on portions of a 50-mile stretch of I-95 in the Fredericksburg area in Northern Virginia, between Richmond and Washington, partly because of disabled trucks blocking the way in snowy and icy conditions, VDOT said.

The area received at least 14 inches of snow from the storm, according to the National Weather Service in the Baltimore/Washington area.

Kaine told CNN on Tuesday that he had eaten only an orange — given to him by other stranded motorists — since Sunday night along with some coffee and soda. “I do have some popcorn in the car, but to eat popcorn without any liquid, I don’t think that’s a good idea, so now that I’m 90 minutes from the office, I’m planning on eating a lot and using the restroom as soon as I pull in,” he said from the road.

The senator told reporters after arriving at the Capitol that he had found some camaraderie on the road, describing the constellations he had seen walking around with other people trapped on the highway.

“You’d get out to stretch your legs. It was a clear night. Oh, yeah, there’s Cassiopeia. There’s Orion’s Belt. There’s the Big Dipper. You know, we were sharing a gallows experience,” he said.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam wrote on Twitter that an emergency message is going out to all stranded drivers connecting them to support and the commonwealth “is working with localities to open warming shelters as needed.”

“While sunlight is expected to help @VaDOT clear the road, all Virginians should continue to avoid 1-95,” Northam warned.

This story has been updated with Kaine’s arrival at the Capitol.

™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Jason Hanna and Morgan Rimmer contributed to this report.

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