MATTHEWS: Virginia I-95 fiasco reminds us it’s a good thing Gov. Ralph Northam is out the door

This image provided by the Virginia department of Transportation shows a closed section of Interstate 95 near Fredericksburg, Va. Tuesday Jan. 4, 2022. Both northbound and southbound sections of the highway were closed due to snow and ice. (Virginia Department of Transportation via AP)

No one was happy to see the images and videos from I-95 in Virginia on Monday and Tuesday of last week. Per a Google map of traffic, for a roughly 90-mile stretch of interstate, thousands of drivers were stranded after a winter storm dumped snow and ice on the region, causing roadways to be icy and, in many cases, virtually impassable. 

A truck at the head of the pack early on in the storm reportedly jack-knifed, which caused a ripple effect for those behind it. 

Some drivers, including Democrat Sen. Tim Kaine, reported being stuck for over 24 hours with little to nothing to eat. Though there were stories of scattered heroism over that period of time, including some drivers passing along food, drink and blankets to other drivers, the situation proved to be a nightmare for Gov. Ralph Northam and the Virginia Dept. of Transportation, both of whom drivers blamed for their predicament. 

The drivers had a strong case against Northam and the VDOT. For starters, Northam appeared MIA until Tuesday, which was likely the reason why some Democrats took to the Twitter machine on Tuesday morning last week to mistakenly blame Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin. But, Youngkin, the Republican who beat Democrat gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe in the fall election, won’t be sworn in until later this week. 

One, whose name we’ll leave out of this piece in the interest of sparing them further embarrassment, initially tweeted her displeasure with Youngkin’s supposed handling of the crisis, saying, “Hundreds are stranded on I 95 in Virginia for hours. Does Gov Youngkin care? Of course not. Proof Virginia voted for the wrong person for GOV.” 

Less than three hours later and after numerous people pointed out that Northam was still governor, she gushed praise on the outgoing governor. 

“Thank goodness. Gov Northam has put together teams to clear the highway and take stranded driver[s] food and drinks. He cares.” 

While one would expect that type of convenient 180 from Twitter liberals, one would hope the response from state officials to criticism would be a little more measured, mature and contrite. 

But it wasn’t. 

Last Wednesday, after the traffic tie-ups on I-95 were cleared and everything got back to normal, the Washington Post reported that Northam was taking no responsibility whatsoever for what happened and instead blamed drivers. 

“While expressing sympathy for stranded motorists, Northam said more should have heeded warnings to stay off the roads,” the paper noted before quoting Northam’s comments. 

“We gave warnings, and people need to pay attention to these warnings, and the less people that are on the highways when these storms hit, the better,” he stated.  

The following day, he doubled down in a combative interview with WRVA radio, saying he was “sick and tired” of the criticism and lashing out at reporter Matt Demlein. 

“I don’t know why you’re sitting there saying ‘What went wrong?’” Northam raged. “Why don’t you start asking some of these individuals that were out on the highways … why did you feel it was so important to drive through such a snowstorm?” 

While it’s good — and pretty standard advice from state officials — to advise people not to get on the roads if they don’t have to when bad weather events like this one are forecast, it strikes me as extremely poor form — not to mention bad leadership — to blame the people who got stuck, especially when you don’t know the circumstances for why they were on the road in the first place. 

It was one more on a long list of reminders as to why it’s a good thing that Northam is headed out the door effective Saturday, when Youngkin gets sworn into office. 

Media analyst Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym Sister Toldjah and is a regular contributor to RedState and Legal Insurrection.