Amtrak passengers endured a 30-hour delay in Virginia after fallen trees blocked the track during winter storm


About 120 passengers were on the Crescent Train 20 when it was stopped north of Lynchburg, Amtrak spokesperson Christina Leeds told CNN.

The area where the track was blocked had been slammed by a winter storm that dropped several inches of snow, snarling traffic and leaving drivers on a 50-mile stretch of I-95 in Virginia stuck in their cars during the freezing overnight hours.

Some were stranded on the blocked roadway for more than 24 hours. The interstate reopened Tuesday night after all disabled vehicles were removed, the Virginia Department of Transportation’s office in Fredericksburg said on Twitter.

On the train, passengers were able to view the picturesque wintry landscape until their journey came to a sudden halt.

“We were traveling through beautiful, snowy countryside and the train just started stopping,” Amtrak passenger Sean Thornton told CNN affiliate WGCL. He said he boarded the train with his daughter in Atlanta for a trip that was supposed to take about 10 hours.

A few hours into the delay, food began to run low and toilets were backed up, Thornton said.

Passengers received occasional messages about snow and branches on the tracks, he said, but he wished Amtrak had a plan in place for unexpected delays and better communication with passengers.

“Our staff worked to make sure customers were updated and provided food and water for customers,” Leeds, the Amtrak spokesperson, said.

While trains and automobiles are on the move again, Virginia is still recovering from the storm. More than 187,000 customers were still without power as of early Wednesday morning, according to PowerOutage.us.

‘I could have walked home faster than this’

While passengers on the train had some comforts, many of those stranded on the roadway lacked basic supplies to get them through the night.

Drivers described turning their engines on for a time to heat up, turning them off to conserve fuel, and sharing food and supplies with one another as crews tried to clear trucks blocking the way.

Virginia senator recounts being stuck on I-95 for more than 20 hours after winter storm

Jim DeFede, a journalist who was driving to Miami from New York, told CNN’s Jake Tapper that once he stopped, he was stuck for 18 hours.

He said he watched others who got out of their cars slip and slide on the ice and he stayed put, thinking there was no way emergency responders would get there if he fell and was hurt.

He said one trucker was handing out bottles of water and one bread delivery truck opened its doors and people handed out loaves.

DeFede finally got moving but was sent north, in the direction he had come from until, after two hours, he got off the interstate and found a place to stay.

By 11 a.m. Tuesday, Susan Phalen was able to finally start driving her car again on northbound I-95 after being stuck just south of Stafford for nearly 15 hours.

“I could have walked home faster than this, pretty much,” Phalen told CNN by phone.

Trucker shares his food with other motorists stuck for hours on icy interstate

Also trapped on I-95 overnight was Jennifer Travis, who with her husband and 12-year-old daughter were driving a rental car back to their Virginia home from Florida — because their return flight had been canceled twice.

They were stuck on I-95 for hours early Tuesday — with enough fuel for heat, but with no water or food. By 10 a.m., the family had been able to take an exit — but then drove a road that hadn’t been plowed.

Many secondary roads in the region were blocked by downed trees or wintry conditions, authorities said, so even those able to get off I-95 faced difficult travels.

“Trees are down, cars are just everywhere. … It’s treacherous,” Travis told CNN by phone.

CNN’s Jason Hanna contributed to this report.



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