Virginia congresswoman seeks answers on next steps following IG report on January snowstorm

A Virginia congresswoman wants to know what steps are being taken to prevent future snow-related traffic backups, like the one that blocked traffic and stranded motorists on Interstate 95 last January.

A Virginia congresswoman wants to know what steps are being taken to prevent future snow-related traffic backups, like the one that blocked traffic and stranded motorists on Interstate 95 last January.

In a letter to Gov. Glenn Youngkin, U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger, who represents the Fredericksburg area that was part of the mile-long traffic jam, asked what he was doing to make sure the U.S. Transportation Department State will implement recommendations outlined in the January 3 snowstorm after-action report, as well as recommendations from the 2018 report on the storm that closed parts of Interstate 81.

Spanberger acknowledged that Youngkin was not yet in office when these storms happened, but she said it is now up to her administration to ensure that the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) and other agencies are implementing the report’s recommendations.



Camp Youngkin blamed former Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration for not “adequately preparing and planning for the I-95 snow breakup.”

A spokesperson for Youngkin described the subject of the Office of the State Inspector General’s performance audit as “the Northam administration January 3-4, 2022 snow incident.” The title of the audit is “Performance Audit of I-95 2022 Snow Incident January 3-4”.

“Governor Youngkin and administration successfully weathered three snow-related events, mitigated risk, and ensured that the appropriate resources were available for our response teams and that they functioned well. … Under the governor’s direction, snow events after his inauguration were handled to standards of worst-case scenario preparedness rather than under-preparedness for snow-related emergency events,” the spokesperson said in a statement. communicated.

Other questions Spanberger is seeking answers to include why recommendations from the 2018 After Action Report have not been implemented, accountability processes to ensure lessons are implemented, steps taken to develop a “hazard specific” contingency plan for snowfall, and finally, the steps that have been taken to address the communication failures identified in the Inspector General’s report.

The 29-page audit by IG Michael Westfall included nine critical findings.

  • The VDOT did not apply lessons learned from a similar 2018 snow-caused traffic jam on Interstate 81 near Bristol.
  • Virginia does not have a specific contingency plan in place to deal with snowfall events.
  • Messages sent to the public warning motorists to avoid entering I-95 were unclear and unreliable.
  • Inter-agency communication at VDOT was not effective.
  • There were not enough resources in place at VDOT headquarters to handle snow removal.
  • There was no major effort to help stranded motorists, many of whom had to abandon their vehicles in the freezing cold, as the VDOT and Virginia State Police (VSP) focused primarily on their responsibilities to open Highway.
  • Despite the deteriorating situation, VDOT Fredericksburg management did not alert headquarters quickly enough, and the lack of a joint information center at the onset of the storm contributed to poor communication between VDOT, the VSP and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM).
  • There was no backup power for traffic cameras along the affected section of I-95. Most traffic cameras were not operational during the storm, making it difficult for authorities to assess the scale of the disaster.
  • While the intensity of the January storm was unexpected and therefore did not reach the level to issue an emergency statement, the IG recommends that in the future, a preparedness statement be issued for allow more resources, including the call of the National Guard. ready to help.

In April, a 41-page after-action report requested by VDOT, VDEM and VSP was released detailing the state’s response to the storm and what should be done in the future.

Last June, a report on the findings of another audit of the VDOT’s snow removal process – which did not cover the January 3-4 snow event – found that the agency did not have enough contractors to help with major snow removal.

Shayna Estulin of WTOP contributed to this report.

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