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Virginia traffic backup serves as reminder to have emergency kit in car

Posted at 11:29 PM, Jan 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-04 23:29:11-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Images out of Northern Virginia mirrored sights seen in Western New York. Traffic at a standstill because of snow.

The weather shut down highways on Monday evening and early Tuesday morning, leaving some motorists stuck in their vehicles on Interstate 95 for more than 10 hours. Some drivers were even forced to spend the night in their cars without food or stable heat in freezing temperatures.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) said around 8:30 p.m. ET that the backup was caused by a combination of downed trees and disabled vehicles. As of 5:30 a.m. ET on Tuesday, vehicles were still at a standstill in a 50-mile stretch of the interstate from Prince William County to Caroline County.

“No one wants to be stranded like those people were stranded,” said Ellizabeth Carey, the director of public relations at AAA of Western and Central New York. “But maybe that’s what it takes for people to say, ‘wait a minute. Maybe I should really take this advice and pack an emergency kit.’”

An emergency kit can be as simple as some food, water, and a cell phone charger.

Here is a list of supplies AAA says is wise to have in your car during the winter.

“The number one thing you want to have, is a phone, so you could call for help,” added Carey.

If you’ve crashed off the road, a call to 9-1-1 will let first responders know exactly where you are.

“In Erie County, we have the ability to utilize GPS and track you to a very close pinpoint location. So, if you have wireless phase 2 or 3 phone, we can really dial in on your location,” explained Sean Crottey, the emergency manager of the Town of Hamburg.

If you do get stuck, stay in the car.

“Stay seat-belted in your vehicle because chances are, a car could slide in the same tracks and if you’re out of the vehicle, you could be struck,” added Carey.

There is one reason to get out of the car, as long as its safe.

“If the vehicle exhaust is trapped by snow and has snow packed in the tailpipe,” described Crottey. “That’s a real problem.”

Emergency crews have been using their response to storms like "Snowvember" and other lake effect events to learn and improve.

“We’re not too proud to admit we could have done things better. And it’s important that we do learn,” said Crottey.