Ottawa trucker recounts spending 12 hours on Virginia's I-95 in snowstorm

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Thirty centimetres of snow brought hundreds of drivers to a standstill on I-85 in Virginia on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. Long-haul trucker Matthew Marchand said he was stuck for more than 12 hours. (Matthew Marchand - image credit)
Thirty centimetres of snow brought hundreds of drivers to a standstill on I-85 in Virginia on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. Long-haul trucker Matthew Marchand said he was stuck for more than 12 hours. (Matthew Marchand - image credit)

While snow may be second nature to many Canadians, one local long-haul trucker had an experience even the most winter-hardened Canucks would dread.

On Monday, Matthew Marchand spent 12 hours on Interstate 95 in Virginia after a snowstorm brought traffic to a standstill.

"I only did about 200 kilometres of driving that day, starting at 8 a.m. So the last 50 or so kilometres took about six hours to accomplish," the trucker told CBC Radio's All In A Day Wednesday.

Thirty centimetres of snow brought hundreds of drivers to a standstill, some for almost a day, after a truck jackknifed and started a chain reaction crash.

Even before Marchand came to his 12-hour halt, he'd spent the previous six hours driving no more than five kilometres. While a trucker is prepared for long stays behind the wheel, Marchand said many of those around him weren't.

"Most people, of course, didn't have any real supplies with them. No food of any real kind or water in most cases," he said. "They really had mostly nothing."

One Tesla driver even came knocking on Marchand's door, asking if there was a way for the truck to charge his car. He couldn't, but he gave the family a jug of water, a spare blanket and another mylar blanket from a first-aid kit.

Marchand also helped shovel out a few of his new neighbours.

Critical of state's response

Although a 30-centimetre snowstorm may be uncommon that far south — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency on Wednesday — Marchand said it's not like the state had no resources to throw at the problem.

He's now one of many criticizing Virginia officials for allowing the highway traffic jam to spiral out of control.

Many motorists didn't seem to know how to drive in the snow, Marchand said, adding that he believes there wasn't enough done to clear the roads early on.

"We clearly have more equipment to deal with that [in Canada], but it's not like they had no equipment," he said. "They just were, at least from what I could see, mismanaging the resources."

Although the winter storm set back Marchand's drive substantially, he said freak situations like this aren't something truckers dwell on.

"We chalked it up to the weather," he said.

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