Saturday gridlock: Major roads were slow going or no going
"I had no no clue," said Larry Powell, who set out Friday night from Landover, Maryland, in an 18-wheeler carrying a load of U.S. Mail south along Route 29. Although the heavy snowfall delayed his planned midnight rendezvous with another mail truck coming out of Greensboro, Powell was still trying to reach the Lynchburg exchange point Saturday morning when he had to grind his rig to a halt behind a line of emergency-blinkered rigs lined up near the village of North Garden.
"I was doing fine until I saw the flashing lights," said Powell, wishing the run had been canceled before he encountered the miles-long queue stretching north from around the Nelson County line.
That was enough to make Ian Judd turn back. Heading home to Lynchburg for the holidays, he drove from New York where he's a student at the Culinary Institute of America, but he ended up spending Friday night in his car in Charlottesville.
After setting out again Saturday shortly after 8am, he got stuck making a U-turn near North Garden. After a Black Jeeped reporter whipped out some steel tire grippers and an unknown samaritan from a red Jeep pitched in with some elbow grease, Judd got extricated so he could head north for "somewhere warm" in Charlottesville.
"I think I just need to park it," said Judd.
About three miles north of the spot where Judd got stuck and south of Interstate 64, a VDOT plow–- although equipped with tire chains–- had nosed itself helplessly into the Route 29 median. About 100 yards away, the steeply sloped ramp to I-64 West was crammed with equally immobilized vehicles.
Around this same time Saturday morning, there were 55 abandoned cars along Route 250 between Ivy and the 29/250 Bypass. But both major fuel stations along that stretch, the Shell and the Bellair Market, were open for business.
Bellair owner Pat Pitts admitted that she opened the popular gourmet food and gas shop 30 minutes later than the usual starting time of 6am. Normally, she'd keep the place open to 11pm. "But if it stays the way it is now," said Pitts, as snow continued to steadily fall, "maybe we'll close at dark."
–updated Sunday, January 3 with minor clarifying details
–orig. headline: "Beautiful gridlock: Major roads were slow going or no going"