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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam says he’s ‘sick and tired’ of his government being criticized for the I-95 traffic pileup that left hundreds stranded for hours

Ralph Northam
Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia.

  • Gov. Northam said he was “sick and tired” of hearing criticism over the state’s I-95 storm response.
  • “This was a storm that we haven’t seen for a long time,” he told WRVA’s Matt Demlein.
  • The governor praised the efforts of rescue workers and police officials who aided motorists.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said Wednesday he was “sick and tired” of hearing criticism of “what went wrong” during the recent snowstorm that left hundreds of people stranded for hours on Interstate 95, according to The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

During an interview on WRVA, a Richmond-area radio station, reporter Matt Demlein asked Northam about any updates in assessing how the huge transportation backlog transpired, especially as many were stuck in their vehicles with limited heat, minimal food options, and frigid outdoor temperatures.

The Democratic governor — who is term-limited and will leave office on January 15 — forcefully rejected the line of questioning about the incident, which made nationwide headlines.

“I don’t know why you’re sitting there saying, ‘what went wrong?'” Northam said. “This was a storm that we haven’t seen for a long time. It started with rain, and then turned into a slushy snow of eight to ten inches … more than what was predicted. And then after midnight, turned into essentially an ice rink.”

He then said everyone should “sit back and say, ‘Thank you so much’ to our agencies,” including the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Virginia State Police.

“These are men and women who were out there in the elements rescuing people, getting the interstate open back up,” he said. “I can’t be even more prouder.”

He added: “I hate to vent on you right now … but I am getting sick and tired of people talking about what went wrong. I think we ought to be thankful that nobody got hurt and nobody lost their lives. Interstate 95 is up and running and people are back at home and back to work.”

Demlein pointed out that “clearly something didn’t go right,” since some motorists — including Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia — were stuck on the highway for up to 27 hours between Richmond and Washington, DC, on Monday and Tuesday before the critical road artery was fully reopened on Tuesday evening.

“Mother Nature is a tremendous force,” Northam responded. “This was a big storm. Over 400,000 people lost electricity. Everybody’s home safe and I’m proud of the way Virginia responded to it.”

In the WRVA interview, Northam spoke of the storm warnings from the Commonwealth and questioned why some motorists were on the road.

“We knew that the storm was coming. We put warnings out. Why don’t you start asking some of these individuals that were out on the highway for hours, one, did you know about the storm? Two, why did you feel it was so important to drive through such a snowstorm?” Northam said. “And three, in hindsight, do you think maybe you should have stayed home or wherever you were, rather than getting out on Interstate 95?

He added: “I think that would be interesting to hear that side.”

In a Wednesday statement to the Times-Dispatch, Northam said that he felt the need to laud the government workers who worked expeditiously to save lives “in a very difficult situation” during the interview.

He said he had a “tremendous amount of compassion for those who got stuck in that scary situation,” and asked for a report that would examine the Commonwealth’s response.

The governor then said the level of communication regarding the storm could have been stronger.

“One of the things I think we need to look at is how to best communicate with drivers before, during, and after these storms — and that’s 100% on us,” Northam said.

The highway was not pre-treated with salt ahead of the Monday winter storm because of heavy rain that preceded the snow.

State leaders are now facing questions from some Virginia congressional lawmakers — including Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger and Republican Rep. Rob Wittman — who have both asked for an investigation into the response.

Spanberger on Wednesday asked Northam and Glenn Youngkin, the Republican governor-elect, for “a full accounting of what went wrong and what went right, and recommendations for process improvement.”

Wittman said in a Thursday letter to the governor that the Virginia Department of Transportation should examine how the Commonwealth could have “improved its response, management, and execution of the incident.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

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