“Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough laid into Democratic Virginia Governor Ralph Northam during his Monday morning broadcast on MSNBC, criticizing him both for his slow response to the hundreds of drivers who were stranded due to snow and ice on I-95 and for his comments blaming out-of-state drivers for the mess.
“So the roads are now clear, but questions remain as to why it took so long for help to arrive,” co-host Mika Brzezinski began, noting that the problem stretched far beyond just the traffic at a dead stop on the highway. She noted that many had been desperately searching for gas or a hotel room somewhere only to be met with power outages and gas station closures.
“It was impossible. Apocalyptic was the word that was used,” she added.
“The question is, what the hell was outgoing Virginia Governor Ralph Northam doing?” Scarborough asked, noting that Northam had held a press conference on the chaotic scene and had laid the blame at the feet of the drivers on the road.
“I can certainly understand that many drivers may have been from out of state and so missed the clear and consistent messaging from VDOT and emergency responders to stay off the roads during the winter storm,” Northam said in his press conference, audio of which Scarborough played on air before giving his response.
“I really don’t have any words for the stupidity in that statement. I-95 brings people. It’s the artery, the main artery that takes people from Florida all the way up to Maine. People travel I-95,” Scarborough said. “They’re not used to bumpkins being too stupid to prepare the roads before the snow starts. They’re not used to bumpkins being too stupid to plow the roads in a timely manner. But that’s exactly what happened with Ralph Northam. Then he blamed the drivers for just a hellish, hellish landscape out there.”
“I had to read that twice when I saw that yesterday from Governor Northam,” co-host Willie Geist agreed. “It’s I-95, it’s not some back road through rural Virginia. There are going to be cars on that road, whatever warning may have been. And the question at that point it, when you look at these pictures, is, ‘What are you doing to help people?’ — Not blaming them for being there in the first place.”
Geist went on to note that Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) had been among those who were stuck on the highway for over 24 hours. “He said, ‘I’m one of the lucky ones. I was healthy, I had a bag of popcorn.’ But there were people, as we talked about yesterday with young kids and pets and people who are diabetic in their cars who didn’t have their medication. Blaming the drivers and people sitting there making desperate please for help going into two days strikes me as not a great move on your last couple days heading out of office.”
According to a report from the Virginia Mercury, “The affected portion of road wasn’t pre-treated to prevent ice and snow buildup, according to VDOT engineer Marcie Parker, because the storm began as rain before turning to sleet and snow. ‘If we pre-treat, the rain just washes it away,’ Parker said. ‘So we’re really just wasting product and wasting money and interrupting the traffic flow.'”
Parker went on to say that when the weather changed, the snow fell so rapidly — more than two inches per hour in some areas — it was simply more than the road crews could keep up with, especially with so many vehicles already on the road.