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Residents of Spotted Tavern Road in Stafford County help each other dig out from a foot of snow that fell on January 3, 2022. [Photo: Stafford County Sheriff’s Office]
[Updated 8:50 p.m.] Stafford County declared a state of emergency following a snowstorm that buried it under more than a foot of snow.

The county’s secondary thoroughfares and sidestreets snarled due to a continued closure of Interstate 95 that left thousands of drivers stranded overnight. The declaration will trigger much-needed help from the state’s emergency management.

Since the storm’s onset early Monday, January 3, law enforcement and fire and rescue crews have been working 14-hour shifts on county streets. While answering calls for help, some became trapped in their vehicles due to fallen trees, ice, and snow.

“I’ve been out with public safety personnel, and this storm has proved to be a disaster,” said Stafford County Board of Supervisors Chairman and Rock Hill District Supervisor Cyrstal Vanuch.

Vanuch said she called the Virginia Department of Emergency Management late last night. County Administrator Fred Presley issued the declaration about 4 p.m. today.

On a press call earlier today, Virginia Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Lauren Opett said one Virginia jurisdiction “may have requested help,” but she wasn’t more specific. In a follow-up email Opett sent to Potomac Local News tonight, the jurisdiction did not ask for support from the National Guard.

She did not say which jurisdiction asked for help, and added it was not Stafford County.

Opett added it is the responsibility of local jurisdictions to request help from the National Guard, implying it was not the governor’s responsibility to have guardsmen and women on call.

Officials took heat today after Gov. Ralph Northam chose not to deploy the National Guard on Monday night after a series of tractor-trailer crashes snarled traffic for most of the day. At 4 a.m. Tuesday, officials closed the highway between Dumfries and Ruther Glen, near Kings Dominion, to clear vehicles from the highway.

Many without food, water, and depleting fuel supplies, many abandoned their vehicles searching for shelter. In Stafford, officials converted Stafford Senior High School into an emergency shelter at 63 Indians Lane next to the highway.

I-95 reopened to traffic about 9 p.m., ending a 17-hour closure.

Mother Nature dropped more than a foot of snow on many areas of the county. Between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m Monday, two inches of snow fell per hour.

Forecasters say another three inches of snow could fall Thursday night, January 6.

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Gridlock on Interstate 95 south at Route 234 in Dumfries on Tuesday, January 4, 2022. [Photo: VDOT]
[Updated 8:50 p.m.] Today, Virginia leaders faced tough questions about why the National Guard was not mobilized to help drivers stranded on Interstate 95 for 24 hours.

Just after 8 a.m. Monday, January 3, just as a massive snowstorm ramped up, state police troopers began receiving calls for help on the highway near Fredericksburg. Tractor-trailers crashed, stranding thousands of drivers for most of the day.

At 4 a.m. today, the Virginia Department of Transportation closed a 53-mile stretch of the highway between Dumfries and Ruther Glen, near Kings Dominion. The agency gave the order to remove stranded cars on the road, adding it is impossible to know how many drivers or cars became stranded on the highway.

The job fell onto the backs of state and local law enforcement, and fire and rescue crews, and two-truck drivers.

“We had troopers going car to car to check on people,” said Geller. Earlier today, we learned Prince William County fire and rescue crews worked to distribute meals to stranded drivers on the highway. At the same time, Stafford County officials declared Stafford Senior High School an emergency shelter for those who didn’t have anywhere else to go.

Gov. Ralph Northam must decide to activate the troops, explained Geller on an 11:30 a.m. press call. Northam did not participate, and he never called for help from the National Guard.

“Virginia National Guard personnel have day jobs, and it takes at least 12 to 24 hours to mobilize them,” said Virginia Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Lauren Opett.

I-95, a federal highway, is managed by the state. However, Opett said local jurisdictions and their governments are responsible for assessing treacherous highway conditions and calling for help from the National Guard.

Such requests are filtered through Opett’s agency, and it’s possible one jurisdiction in the affected area called for help. However, Opett did not know which one at the time of the press call.

“At this time, the event is being handled at the local level with the support of state agencies,” Opett added. “It has not exceeded the capacity for them to respond.”

The snow fell heavier and faster than VDOT anticipated, said Marcy Parker, an administrator who headed the agency’s response to the debacle. “Two inches an hour over five hours… it was too much to keep up with,” said Parker.

Parker expects it will take the rest of the day to clear stranded and abandoned vehicles from the road. Afterward, Parker said brigades of trucks called plow trains would move into the area, break up the ice, allowing the agency to reopen a portion of the most heavily traveled road in the state.

VDOT did not pre-treat the roads with a salt brine mix before the storm. “The storm started as rain, and all of the pre-treatment would have been washed off the roads.”

Geller said there were no reports of crashes between Dumfries and Ruther Glen when the highway was closed early this morning despite the massive delays.

In Prince William County, police told drivers to get off the highway at the closest exit and use alternative routes.
Drivers on secondary and side streets also experienced delays as ice and snow led to problems and tree closures.

On Monday, more than a foot of snow fell portions of Stafford, Spotsylvania, and Prince William counties. In addition to crippling roadways, the storm closed local schools and government offices.

On Thursday, forecasters say up to three additional inches of snow could fall across the region.

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The Lake Ridge Rotary Club erects U.S. Flags outside the Prince William County Government Center for Veterans Day.

It’s time for our annual look back at the 10 most-read stories on PotomacLocalNews.com.

This year, we’ve got everything from The Washington Redskins, er, The Washington Football Team, multiple stories about the town of Dumfries’ conversion of a pass-through place to a gaming destination, and a tale of a woman who sued the DMV over what she called a misleading letter.

From my point of view, the list is impressive, covering a diverse number of topics that affected our region this year.

The most-read list contained mostly stories and shootings and car crash in years past. While we’ve seen our fair share of those in 2021, unfortunately. However, this year’s list shows us that you value the critical community reporting are at PLN.

I wish you and your family all the best in 2022. Here’s to a happy, healthy, and productive New Year.

Here are the 10 most-read stories on PotomacLocalNews.com in 2021:

10. Manassas leaders say no to U.S. flags on utility poles, kill pilot program — February 20, 2021

9. Prince William woman sues DMV, wants the agency to send ‘better letters’ — January 1, 2021

8.  Area residents hit big in Virginia Lottery — April 29, 2021

7. New fines for expired license plates to be imposed Tuesday — September 8, 2021

6. Exclusive: 2 Prince William sites considered for new Washington Football stadium — December 23, 2021

5. Five to 8 inches of snow possible Wednesday into Thursday — February 9, 2021

4. Hot Chikn Kitchn comes to Woodbridge, serves up ‘unity through food’ — January 3, 2021

3. Northern Virginia’s first gaming parlor to open in Dumfries with 95 games — January 5, 2021

2. Resort casino proposed to open in Dumfries in January 2023 — February 15, 2021

1. Police tried to stop vehicle before triple fatal crash on I-95 — March 18, 2021

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Yesli Vega announced her campaign for Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, which includes a portion of Prince William County and all of Stafford.

The Republican is two years into her first elected term, representing the Coles Magisterial District on the Prince William Board of County Supervisors. She joins fellow Republican Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, running for the 10th District Congressional seat.

Republican Gary Adkins of Stafford also announced his bid for the seat.

The announcements come after the Virginia State Supreme Court approved new congressional maps on Tuesday, splitting Prince William County between two congressional districts. Residents who live east of Hoadly Raod live in District 7, while those who live west live in District 10.

“From Prince William to Culpeper, Virginians are being pummeled by the current policies and decisions coming out of D.C.,” states Vega on Facebook. “Our system of checks and balances was created for such a time as this when disastrous one-party rule no longer served the best interests and will of the people.”

This year, incoming Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin tapped Vega to lead his statewide Hispanic campaign outreach, putting her in charge of the “Latinos for Youngkin” initiative. Incoming Attorney General Jason Miyares placed Vega on his transition team due, in part, to Vega’s prior work in law enforcement.

On the Board of County Supervisors, Vega has voted to conserve undeveloped land, to maintain the county’s 287(g) program once used to identify illegal aliens in the county jail, and against additional funding for the arts, saying some organizations are overly dependent upon government, and not public donations to sustain their programs.

Republican Gary Adkins of Stafford also announced his bid for the seat. “Virginia’s new 7th Congressional District deserves a Congressman who will steadfastly defend our Constitutional Republic; fight relentlessly for conservative principles and values; protect our national sovereignty; defend our nation and our communities against aggressors; work tirelessly to control spending and lower the tax burden; and protect our right to life, liberty, and equal justice,” Adkins posted to Facebook.

Adkins is a 20-year Air Force Veteran whose lived in the county since 1990. Since retiring from the military, Adkins has held senior executive leadership positions in the defense, intelligence, and geospatial intelligence sectors.

Abagail Spanberger, who lives outside Richmond, represents District 7. The Democrat reportedly told the Richmond Times-Dispatch she was considering moving north, purchasing a home in the newly-drawn District 7, and campaigning to keep the seat.

Earlier this month, a draft map of the new 7th District included only Prince William and Stafford counties, with the cities of Manassas, Manassas Park, and Fredericksburg. Several Democrats in Prince William County announced they were considering a run for the seat, including former Delegate and gubernatorial candidate Jennifer Carroll Foy, Virginia State Senator Jeremy McPike, and Prince William County Schools Chair At-large Babur Lateef.

With the new maps in place, candidates will move to Primary Elections usually scheduled in June. The General Election will be held Tuesday, November 8, 2022, when every U.S. House of Representatives seat is up for grabs.

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Virginia’s new 7th Congressional District includes a portion of Prince William County and the counties of Stafford, King George, Culpeper, Caroline, Spotsylvania, Madison, Orange, Greene, and the city of Fredericksburg.

According to new maps approved by the Virginia State Supreme Court on Tuesday, multiple congress members continue to represent Prince William County.

The state’s second-largest jurisdiction is split with residents in the county’s eastern portion, from Hoadly Road to the Potomac River, living in the newly-relocated 7th Congressional District currently represented by Democrat Abigail Spanbeger, who lives outside Richmond.

In addition to Prince William, the district now includes the counties of Stafford, King George, Culpeper, Caroline, Spotsylvania, Madison, Orange, and Greene. The city of Fredericksburg is also included.

Residents west of Hoadly Road now live in the redrawn 10th District. In addition to including more of Prince William County, the counties of Loudoun, Fauquier, and Rappahannock, and a portion of Fairfax County. The cities of Manassas and Manassas Park are also in the 10, currently represented by Democrat Jennifer Wexton.

A field of four Republicans aims to unseat Wexton in what will likely be a June 2022 Primary Election. Jeanine Lawson, who was elected to serve on the Prince William Board of County Supervisors in 2014, leads the pack in fundraising with more than $330,000.

“The lines are final. I live in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District and have represented parts of it as a Prince William County Supervisor for the last seven years,” said Lawson in a statement posted to Facebook. “I will defeat Nancy Pelosi’s Puppet Jennifer Wexton next November and restore common sense leadership to the people.”

Theresa Ellis, who serves on the Manassas City Council, is also running for the 10th District seat. Earlier this month, when it appeared Manassas was going to be included in the new 7th Congressional District, Ellis told PLN she would run in the political district in which she lives. She couldn’t be reached for comment for this story.

Meanwhile, in the 7th, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports Spanberger is exploring the possibility of moving from her home outside Richmond to a home in the new 7th in a bid to keep the seat. Congress members are not required to live in the district they represent. However, if they chose not to, their political opponent would likely use that fact to campaign against them, University of Mary Washington Political Science Professor Stephen Farnsworth said.

The prospect of all of Prince William County in a single congressional district — after being split between three congress members for the past 11 years — prompted many Democrats in the blue-leaning county to consider a run for the seat.

“The new maps have, unfortunately, divided Prince William County into two districts intentionally splitting a majority-minority community,” said Babur Lateef, the county’s School Board Chairman At-large who was also considering a run for the 7th District seat. “This effectively continues the gerrymandering that has weakened the second largest county in the commonwealth for way too long and making sure underrepresented minorities remain underrepresented.
The Virginia Supreme Court has failed miserably.”

The Virginia Supreme Court stepped in in November when the bi-partisan redistricting committee to redraw the political maps quit. The process, done every 10 years to account for population shifts, also redraws lines for the Virginia General Assembly seats.

You can see the Supreme Court’s order and links to the new maps here.

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