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Uber passenger gets a refund for $700 bill after Virginia interstate shutdown

Andrew Peters spent 14 hours in the car. He said the bill was $200 and he added a tip of $100, but Uber later tacked on a $400 surcharge.

An Uber passenger who got stuck in the chaos of the I-95 highway shutdown in Virginia was issued a full refund after the ride-hailing service slapped him with a $700 bill.

The man, Andrew Peters, landed Monday at Dulles International Airport in the Virginia suburbs of Washington as he was returning from San Francisco.

He requested an Uber ride to take him to Richmond, Virginia, where he lives. Once they got on the highway, Peters and the Uber driver quickly realized that traffic was not moving.

“We hopped on the first exit and then it was just, we stopped moving right there. There were cars behind us. There was nowhere to go,” Peters told NBC Washington. “It was like being in some weird parking lot.”

He and thousands of other people were stranded in their vehicles along the 50-mile closure in the Fredericksburg area, which was started Monday morning by a big-rig accident. Vehicles were stalled in freezing temperatures in the first mid-Atlantic snowstorm of the year, many without supplies or access to fuel.

“People were walking around a lot, which was crazy,” Peters said. “I was like, I don’t want to go too far out there in case traffic starts moving again.”

Peters spent 14 hours in the car. He said that the bill was $200 and that he added a tip of $100 but that Uber later tacked on a $400 surcharge, bringing the total to $701.47.

Uber’s website says “heavy traffic may cause your trip to take longer than expected and to compensate your driver for the additional time, your fare may change.”

Peters said he was "ticked off" by the hefty charge.

“I had no way of knowing that I would be stuck in this traffic jam for that long, and I don’t feel like that’s fair because they have the directions. I have no say in which way the Uber goes,” Peters said. 

He disputed the charge and was refunded, Uber confirmed.

"We recognized that the prolonged highway shutdown was extraordinary circumstance for him and the driver," a spokesperson said.

The havoc on the highway ended nearly 30 hours later on Tuesday.

In a phone briefing Tuesday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said motorists were repeatedly warned to stay off the roads because hazardous conditions were likely.

“We were prepared for the storm that was predicted — a few inches of snow — but instead, Mother Nature sent more than a foot of snow,” he said.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., was one of the many drivers left stuck on the road. He tweeted Tuesday afternoon that he was stuck in traffic for 27 hours before he made it to his office.

“Ok after 27 hours on the road from Richmond to DC, very happy to be back in the Capitol and working on voting rights legislation this afternoon,” he wrote.

NBC News correspondent Josh Lederman got stuck on the highway with his pet dog in the back seat of the vehicle in which he was a passenger.

“The interstate is absolutely littered with disabled vehicles. Not just cars. Semis, everything. Nobody can move. People are running out of gas or abandoning vehicles,” he tweeted.

He said on NBC’s “TODAY” show that he had made it back home safely after what he described as a “crazy night.” 

“We were lucky. We had enough gas to make it through without losing power to the car. We were OK without having water and food, but this was a scary situation,” Lederman said.

“I think people expect, given the weather that we were having here, that you might face some delays on the road,” he said. “People were not anticipating, at least I certainly was not, that they would have to be spending the entire night waiting to see if anybody was going to come and clear the road so that people would be able to get out.”