A mother described pleading with emergency personnel for help as she feared for her children's lives while stuck for hours in freezing temperatures in a traffic jam on a highway in Virginia on Tuesday.
Vania Masaya was one of thousands of drivers unable to move for more than 20 hours along a nearly 50-mile stretch of I-95 on Monday and Tuesday thanks to the combination of multiple overturned tractor-trailers, rapid snowfall and layers of ice that hindered transportation crews from clearing the highway.
Masaya was one of many drivers who ran out of gas while sitting in the traffic jam as temperatures plunged into the 20s. She and her children had not moved from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday when she grew fearful for their safety.
She called for help when an EMS worker came to her window.
"I was begging, 'Can you please just take my kids? You don’t need to take us, just take my kids, please,'" Masaya said on TODAY Wednesday. "I kept thinking they're going to die in this cold.
"It was freezing. My daughter’s cheeks were so cold."
U.S. & World
The day's top national and international news.
The emergency worker took Masaya and her children to an ambulance, where they were able to spend the night and rest until 8 a.m. on Tuesday.
State officials blamed rapidly decreasing temperatures and snowfall that was falling at a rate of up to four inches per hour in some areas for contributing to the epic traffic snarl. The snow was preceded by sleet and rain, which became several inches of ice that prevented tow trucks from being able to move the jackknifed big rigs that were blocking the highway.
Drivers were forced to choose between conserving gas or staying warm, and many gas stations nearby ran out of fuel or did not have power.
Many abandoned their cars after running out of gas and having little to eat or drink. A local bakery truck stuck in the jam passed out bread to people in dozens of cars.
The journey from Richmond, Virginia, to Washington, D.C., that usually takes Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine two hours ended up becoming a 26.5-hour odyssey.
"I’ve never seen anything like it,” Kaine told NBC Washington on Tuesday.
Despite the bleak situation, Virginia officials said no one was injured during the ordeal, and traffic was once again flowing normally on Wednesday morning.
This story first appeared on TODAY.com. More from TODAY: