A report released Friday details Virginia’s response to a snowstorm that left thousands of drivers stranded along I-95 in freezing temperatures, and one of the most vocal critics of the response wants the state to be better prepared in the future.
“My priority is that we recognize what went wrong in the circumstances of the January 2022 storm that had I-95 completely shut down,” said Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who represents Virginia’s 7th district.
“There’s not one decision that led us to the circumstances on that highway. But in fact, there were many, many issues.”
Some of the issues were rain that prevented pre-treating roads and the largest snowfall in six years. There was also the fact that temperatures were in the 60s the day before, which may have lessened the public’s attention to warnings of inclement weather that could disrupt travel.
But the report cites errors made by the state that could be avoided in the future.
Spanberger found particularly important the possibility that a state of emergency could be announced earlier.
“Many of the communities that I represent, where there were downed trees and there were road shutdowns, really faced challenges because of the time it took to declare that state of emergency,” said Spanberger.
Communication between state agencies and drivers were also seen as an improvement that the state could tackle.
“The stay-off-the-roads notice wasn’t provided at the earliest hours. … ‘Travel can be hazardous throughout the commonwealth’ is a different message than flat out, ‘stay off the roads,'” said Spanberger.
“There is the ability to leverage the Wireless Emergency Alert System — potentially early and often — if we are ever in a circumstance where it looks like cascading events are creating one similar to what we saw in January,” Spanberger continued.
“I think that any sort of way to keep the public informed — be it through text message, radio, highway signage — is an important way to communicate with drivers, so that they know what’s happening, or what might potentially be happening.”
She is now calling on Gov. Glenn Youngkin to implement many of the strategies outlined in the report.
“I look forward to seeing the Youngkin administration implement some of the the suggested modifications that this after-action report put forth. And I am appreciative that the administration has followed through with getting this report done.”