Virginia officials ignored forecasts and warnings ahead of I-95 winter disaster, meteorologist says

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A prominent meteorologist sharply criticized Virginia government officials for ignoring warnings about the severity of the snowstorm that hit the area on Monday and created a disaster for travelers.

Heavy snowfall Monday knocked down trees and caused unsafe conditions for travelers in Virginia, resulting in an overnight traffic jam that trapped some drivers, including US Senator Tim Kaine, D-Va. – in their vehicles for hours on Interstate 95 and blocked an Amtrak train on the tracks outside Lynchburg.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam gestures by answering a question during his press briefing inside the Patrick Henry Building in Richmond, Virginia on Monday, April 20, 2020.
(Bob Brown / Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP | AP Newsroom)

Outgoing Virginia Governor Ralph Northam insisted his administration had done nothing wrong, calling the incident an “incredibly unusual event” which led to “frustration and fear”.

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“We’ve given warnings, and people need to heed those warnings, and the fewer people on the freeways when these storms hit, the better,” Northam told the Washington Post.

(Virginia Department of Transportation via AP)

But Accuweather chief meteorologist Jonathan Porter insisted his team had clearly predicted six to ten inches of snow for the Washington, DC area. Sunday night’s forecast warned of a snowstorm, with another warning of “rapidly deteriorating conditions” on Monday morning.

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Porter said the Virginia Department of Transportation (DOT) could have done more to prevent hundreds of motorists from becoming stranded, such as closing the roads if authorities did not prepare them properly.

This image provided by the Virginia Department of Transportation shows a closed section of Interstate 95 near Fredericksburg, Va. On Tuesday, January 4, 2022. The northern and southern sections of the highway were closed due to snow and ice.

This image provided by the Virginia Department of Transportation shows a closed section of Interstate 95 near Fredericksburg, Va. On Tuesday, January 4, 2022. The northern and southern sections of the highway were closed due to snow and ice.
(Virginia Department of Transportation via AP)

“The red alarm bells were ringing,” Porter said The hill. “This disaster was completely preventable, completely preventable. We make accurate predictions so people can make better decisions.”

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“Quite honestly, the fear felt by so many people could have been avoided with more proactive responses,” he added. “This is the opportunity to generate creative solutions. “

Virginia DOT engineer Marcie Parker told reporters the snow was falling at speeds of up to two inches per hour, which was “entirely too difficult for us to follow.”

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Despite the traffic nightmare, state police said they had not received any reports of fatalities, injuries or major accidents on the affected stretch of I-95 as of 4:45 p.m. ET on Tuesday. . The police announced around 5 pm that the traffic was reducing “slowly but steadily”.

Fox News’ Cortney O’Brien contributed to this report.


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