Traveling only 31 miles in 12 hours on Interstate 95 is an experience that Joseph Catalano never could have imagined being part of his family’s post-Christmas trip to Disney World.
The New Jersey father of two, who says he opted to drive to Orlando over concerns that the flights he had booked would be canceled due to the omicron coronavirus variant, is now among a growing number of travelers who are fuming at Virginia officials after getting trapped on Interstate 95 for hours on end following a Monday snowstorm.
"They let you go right into the mess," he told Fox News Digital after making it to Maryland midday Tuesday. "And once you got into that mess, there was no turning back."
Catalano, who was traveling with his wife and two children, ages 7 and 10, says he was just under six hours from his home in northern New Jersey last night when the situation quickly deteriorated.
"We stopped in hotels and there was people shoulder to shoulder laying... I was going to go in there and say, ‘Can we get a cot and go in a conference room?’ You couldn’t even walk into the hotel, the Marriott, there was people laying on the floor shoulder to shoulder," Catalano told Fox News Digital, describing one scene he says he encountered near Quantico, Virginia.
Catalano added that at one point, he went only 31 miles in 12 hours along a stretch of I-95. He is now calling the situation a "complete failure by the entire state of Virginia."
"I don’t know where the management comes from. I don’t know how they are not prepared for something like this," Catalano said. "It wasn’t just black ice. It was this thick layer where my son said, ‘Dad, this would be awesome, I could go ice skating on it’."
"This morning the only way you could get by was the tracks from the regular cars. You still didn’t see plows. And there are just six, eight, 10 inches of snow on the lines in between the lanes, not even touched," he continued.
"I’ve contacted the governor, he finally came out this morning and said he has shelters opening up. It’s a day late and a dollar short," Catalano said after escaping the travel chaos.
And some people are reporting still being stuck Tuesday afternoon.
"We had absolutely no idea what we were going into," Catalano added. "You had all these fancy signs on the highway [saying], ‘Mask up, mask up’, ‘Save lives, mask up.' Turn the signs on and say, ‘Turn around,' you know, ‘50-mile backup,' something."
As of early Tuesday afternoon, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) says it is still working to reopen a large portion of I-95 and is warning travelers to "expect congestion along major routes."
"Work continues to remove disabled vehicles & tractor trailers from the travel lanes," it mentioned in a tweet.
But drivers who claim to have gotten stuck are criticizing the agency.
"How about you clear the way to get people home safe? The more you’re messing things up the more serious the situation is getting. We’ve been stuck 14 hours and counting now and are amongst the lucky ones as we still have water and gas. The longer the worse it’ll get," one user wrote in response to a VDOT Fredericksburg tweet urging stranded drivers to call 911 if they are having a medical emergency.
"Tax dollars at work! 18 hours and counting stuck sb i95," another user griped.
An NBC News meteorologist also accused Virginia officials of not doing enough beforehand.
"Forecast was as accurate as it gets 12 hrs before it started. If I-95 in Virginia doesn’t have the plow/salt capabilities for 8-14" of snow it should have been preemptively closed," Bill Karins wrote.
The Virginia Department of Transportation and the office of Gov. Ralph Northam have not responded to multiple requests by Fox News for comment.
Real-time updates on Google Maps continue to show ongoing traffic-related issues on roads starting on I-95 in Ruther Glen – just north of Richmond – all the way up to exits at the Pentagon.