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Rochester family stranded in Virginia storm

Sharlyn Cruz-Marquez, Nildo Marquez, Jr, and their children Jariel (5) and Misael (12)
photo provided
Sharlyn Cruz-Marquez, Nildo Marquez, Jr, and their children Jariel (5) and Misael (12)

A Rochester woman and her family were among the hundreds of motorists stranded in Virginia this week as heavy snow clogged the roads and highways.

On Monday night, Sharlyn Cruz-Marquez, her husband, and two children were traveling home from a holiday trip to Orlando, Florida, when road conditions started to deteriorate as they drove through Virginia.

A 40-mile stretch of Interstate 95 north of Richmond was blocked in both directions as snow fell at a rate of up to 2 inches an hour.

The problems began Monday morning when a truck jackknifed on I-95 between Richmond and Washington, D.C., triggering a swift chain reaction as other vehicles lost control.

The Marquezes were able to exit the highway, and their GPS directed them to a back road.

"And that's where the nightmare started," said Sharlyn Cruz-Marquez. "There were branches down everywhere; trees were down everywhere. We ran into another car that was stuck in a ditch and in the process of trying to help them out, we ended up getting stuck in the ditch."

After a couple of hours, some passing motorists managed to free the vehicle and the family made their way to a parking lot, where they spent the night in their SUV.

"And we just slept in the car, with the car on. Well, the kids slept. Us adults, we couldn't sleep," Cruz-Marquez said.

Some 24 hours after their trip began, the family finally found a hotel lobby where they could warm up. Local residents stopped by to donate snacks and water.

"My husband and I just had somewhat of a meal last night," Cruz-Marquez said. "We hadn't eaten in 24 hours, but my kids were OK."

Some friends in other parts of the country saw her Facebook post about the family's predicament and called around until they found a hotel room for them nearby.

Cruz-Marquez says they booked the room for several nights in case they try to head back to Rochester and have to turn around. She said another storm was passing through Virginia on Wednesday.

According to the National Weather Service, up to 11 inches of snow fell in the area during Monday's storm. Local officials said because it began with rain, crews were not able to pretreat the roads, as the salt or chemicals would have washed away.

Beth Adams joined WXXI as host of Morning Edition in 2012 after a more than two-decade radio career. She was the longtime host of the WHAM Morning News in Rochester. Her career also took her from radio stations in Elmira, New York, to Miami, Florida.