Exhausted Drivers Freed From Gridlock in Central Japan

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Snow is removed from the Shin-Meishin Expressway in Yokkaichi, Mie Prefecture, on Thursday morning.

Vehicles stranded amid heavy snow on the Shin-Meishin Expressway in Mie and Shiga prefectures from Wednesday were mostly freed by around 8 a.m. Thursday, but drivers were exhausted after being trapped for long hours.

According to Central Nippon Expressway Co., the stretch where the gridlock occurred is located at high altitudes. The company was on alert for snow in the area, but could not respond in time because Wednesday’s snowfall was much heavier than expected.

The expressway became gridlocked around the border of the two prefectures in the early hours of Wednesday, and the line of vehicles grew to 34 kilometers long by about noon that day. The expressway was expected to remain partly closed until late Thursday afternoon.

A 28-year-old truck driver from Itami, Hyogo Prefecture, was stranded for about 25 hours in Mie Prefecture.

“The toughest part was that I couldn’t eat anything for a whole day,” she said.

Vehicles near her on the expressway came to a halt from about 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday, when she was making a delivery from Saitama Prefecture to Kobe. The few snacks the woman had were soon gone. Central Nippon Expressway employees distributed bottles of water to stranded drivers, but she kept her intake to a minimum, fearing the urge to go to the bathroom.

The stranded vehicles began moving again at about 3:20 a.m. on Thursday.

“I’m worried that the delay is causing trouble to people at delivery destinations. I never expected something like this to happen,” she said.