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At least 3 die in massive car pileups amid Michigan snow squalls


Dozens of cars and trucks were involved in a pileup on I-75 in Michigan on Thursday.

A massive chain-reaction crash on an interstate highway in Detroit on Thursday killed three people, including two children, and left at least 40 injured, local authorities said. That was the first of three major pileups reported on icy Michigan roads Thursday amid blinding snow squalls.

The accident on I-75 in Detroit, which involved cars as well as semi trucks, killed two children in one vehicle and one adult in another vehicle, Michigan State Police confirmed. There were six crash scenes over an approximately one-mile-long stretch, involving 30-35 vehicles, they said. In total, 300-400 vehicles were on the stretch of roadway, most of them blocked by the wreckage.

Motorists and passengers who were able to climb out of their vehicles huddled together on the side of the road, some visibly distraught, others looking dazed. A man and woman hugged under the gray, cloud-filled skies, a pair of suitcases next to them and a bumper on the ground behind.

Motorists interviewed by the Detroit Free Press described a sudden snow squall that whipped through the area, blinding them. Drivers slammed on their brakes and then slid on the icy road, they said.

"It got real bad, real quick," Greg Galuszka of Brownstown Township told the paper. "It turned to ice real quick."

The accident started in the southbound lanes of the I-75 bridge across the Rouge River in southwest Detroit, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation.

At least a dozen people were transported to area hospitals to be treated for injuries, including broken bones, head trauma and lacerations, the Free Press reported, citing Detroit EMS Chief Jerald James. He said at least 30 more people were treated for injuries at the scene.

Many people in the cars had left their vehicles and moved a safe distance from the crash, according to WDIV. The Red Cross was on the scene handing out blankets, food and beverages as authorities worked to clear the debris and get the busy thoroughfare reopened.

Michael Conroy / AP

Police and emergency personal work the scene of a pileup involving more than 40 vehicles, many of the semi truck trailers, on I-70 in Plainfield, Ind., Thursday.

Elsewhere in Michigan, a pileup of about 10 tractor-trailers and about six cars on westbound I-94 caused some injuries, but no fatalities had been reported, according to state police.

A third multiple-car crash took place on U.S. Highway 23 in Genesee County, according to Chris Swanson in the sheriff's office. What began with a rolled pickup truck quickly escalated into a massive pileup that included 52 cars and five semi-trucks, he said. There were no fatalities, though 14 people were transported to hospitals with varying degrees of injury, none of which was considered life-threatening, Swanson said.

The state's transportation department is providing frequent updates on all three accidents through its Twitter account. At about 3:30 ET, the department tweeted that all lanes of I-75 had been reopened.

Michigan didn't get its first major snowfall until after Christmas — later than usual. Like most of the Midwest, it was expected to get less snow than normal as major storm systems veered to the north and south of the state.

But Detroit is apparently now experiencing snow caused by the "lake effect," when a cold wave crosses over the warmer-than-normal water of the Great Lakes.

WXYZ-TV in Detroit reported a winter weather advisory in effect until 7 p.m. Thursday.

"Watch for bursts of heavy snow and icy roads.... Snow accumulations of 2-4 inches will be possible with these intense snow bands," with winds gusting up to 35 miles per hour, according to the forecast. "Visibilities could go close to zero in the heaviest bands of snow."

Meanwhile, another multicar crash was being reported on I-70 in Hendricks County, Ind., NBC affiliate WTHR reported. According to the initial accounts, that pileup involves dozens of vehicles and serious injuries. The report cites snow squalls and slippery roads there as well and says the interstate is shut down in both directions at the site west of Indianapolis, near mile marker 65.

High winds and heavy rains brought more misery to the Eastern Seaboard Thursday, a day after a squall line thundered across the South and produced widespread flooding, tornadoes and violent storms that leveled homes and killed people. The Weather Channel's Julie Martin reports.