A winter storm of snow, freezing rain and bone-chilling temperatures socked the nation’s midsection and East Coast on Saturday, causing hundreds of accidents on icy roads and putting a crimp on Christmas shopping.
At least nine deaths were blamed on the slick roads, and authorities were investigating a few other traffic fatalities as possibly weather-related.
Perhaps the biggest accident happened in Baltimore, when a tanker carrying gasoline skidded off a highway and exploded, authorities said.
Deadly Baltimore pileup
Two people died in a resulting pileup of almost 70 vehicles on Interstate 95, authorities said. Hospital officials said nearly two dozen people were treated for injuries, including broken bones and head trauma.
Baltimore City Fire Chief Roman Clark said it was too early to determine the cause of the crash.
It was unclear whether the pileup started before the tanker crash or was caused by it. The northbound lanes of I-95 were closed while crews cleaned up the mess. In another accident in Baltimore, six people were taken to the hospital after a crash on I-695 involving 15 to 20 vehicles, Baltimore County tweeted.
Winter weather advisories were posted from Denver to Bangor, Maine. Airports reported hundreds of flight delays or cancellations, interstates and toll roads reduced speed limits and authorities urged drivers to use extreme caution.
The nasty weather put a damper on holiday plans for Luke Perez, who was hoping to make it home to Los Angeles on Saturday for a family party. Perez’s flight out of D.C., where he is in graduate school, was canceled, so he said he’s going to try again Sunday or Monday.
“My family has a Christmas party ... and I was hoping to make it to that tonight, but that’s not going to happen anymore,” the 23-year-old said.
There were dozens of crashes in Indiana — two of them involving fatalities — because of freezing rain and ice, officials said. It was not immediately clear how many people were killed. The roads were so slick that authorities had to move motorists stranded on an overpass with a ladder.
In Ohio, a Columbus woman died Saturday when her car skidded off a slick road, authorities said. In Nebraska, Douglas County Sheriff’s deputies said one person was killed Friday night when his car slid off an icy road north of Omaha, hit a tree and burst into flames.
Arctic cold; storms down South
Temperatures plummeted and people braced for the cold. Temperatures in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area were expected to drop to minus-20 degrees overnight. People were advised to stay indoors for the weekend. The low temperature was expected to reach 4 degrees in Chicago on Sunday.
Portions of six states, from Missouri to Mississippi, were under the threat of tornadoes or severe thunderstorms.
In Virginia, a Fairfax County fire truck slid off an icy road while responding to a crash, local news media reported. No one was injured.
Meanwhile, more than three dozen crashes and a fatality were reported in the northern part of the state, authorities said. Police said a man was found dead on the side of I-495, about a mile from a 23-vehicle crash. It appears the man was involved in the crash and had walked away from disabled vehicle. It wasn’t immediately clear how he died.
At least three highway deaths Friday in Missouri are being blamed on icy conditions. The Missouri State Highway Patrol crash reports ay a 13-year-old girl died from injuries suffered in an accident when a tractor-trailer lost control on ice on Interstate 44, striking a Jeep Renegade driven by the girl’s mother. Reports say two men, ages 72 and 56, died in separate accidents when the vehicles they were in went out of control on ice.
In Colorado, up to a foot of snow fell in places, snarling traffic. Even weather-hardened locals apparently had trouble driving.
“I worked for the fire department for 45 years, and we used to call this highway hockey because people keep bumping into each other,” said Kevin Sweeney, of Brighton, a town about 20 miles northeast of Denver. “I think it’s that first big snow thing.”
In North Carolina, police and emergency workers reported more than 100 crashes overnight in Raleigh and Charlotte as the drizzle combined with temperatures below freezing to create dangerous icy patches.
Charlotte police reported two people killed in separate fatal crashes early Saturday, although investigators were still trying to figure out if ice caused the wrecks.