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Stopping by I-95 on a Snowy Evening

Some thoughts on snow, and government incompetence, after the snowstorm that fell on Northern Virginia yesterday.

I was going to write something today about the beauty of how snow forces a modern world in the fast lane to slow down, but the cars still stuck on I-95 for now 24 hours made me think better of it, for some reason.

As a native Tennesseean, I have absolutely no right to mock. Still, having spent enough years in Michigan to experience, and even appreciate, true winter, I’ve begun to have opinions about ploughing. Maybe that’s just part of growing up, or maybe I can blame my Pennsylvanian parents for instilling in me a distaste for one, and only one, southern tradition: absolute incapacity when it comes to winter weather. But really, once you’ve seen how fast the streets are cleared in places with real snow and ice, you can’t help but pile on.

I’m sure you saw what happened on I-95 yesterday afternoon, or at least heard about it today. While the snow piled up, the highway shut down for a 50-mile stretch, leaving hundreds of cars stranded, some for more than 24 hours. The pile up began with a crash involving six tractor-trailers, but it seemed there was more to the problem than the snow and wreck. As the night wore on and the interstate-turned-parking lot remained frozen in place, the drivers were left in their idling cars without food, gas, or water.

After hours of silence, Governor Ralph Northam posted on Twitter this morning that drivers finally would be connected with support. He added that “sunlight is expected to help @VaDOT clear the road.” I can only imagine the thoughts of anyone still stranded at this point: Wonderful, thanks a bunch. I sure wish machines and salt worked in the dark. 

Perhaps the more poetic recalled Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. While idling on the road for 20-plus hours, they may have composed a parodic rendition.

Whose road this is I think I know.   
His house is in the city though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch the road fill up with snow.
My little car must think it queer   
To stop without an exit near   
Between Glenn Ruther and Dumfries
The whitest evening of the year.
I give my weary head a shake   
And ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the beep   
Of countless cars stuck next to me.
They say the sun has melting powers
But I have waited hours and hours,
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.
The VDOT has since begun to detour some traffic and reopen the northbound side of the interstate, but countless are still stranded. Stay safe out there, folks.