Arctic blast grips Midwest, traffic pileups on snowy roads

Story highlights

  • One person killed in Ohio accident that involved 86 vehicles, a fire official says
  • Deadly pileup is one of many multiple-vehicle crashes in Ohio due to blinding snow
  • Snows are tied to a mass of Arctic air moving east from the Dakotas
  • Wind chill advisories and warnings posted in parts of 14 states

A massive cold weather system pushed perilously cold temperatures from the Upper Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic on Monday, triggering blinding snows in some areas that spawned a number of traffic pileups in Ohio alone, including one fatal accident.

Residents of 14 states, from North Dakota to Virginia, faced wind chill warnings or advisories due to frigid temperatures combined with strong winds heading into Tuesday.

But the possibility of light snow around President Barack Obama's inaugural festivities in Washington did not materialize despite colder temperatures. The day saw a mix of sun and clouds with temperatures mostly freezing. The January cold did not dissuade hundreds of thousands of people from turning out on the National Mall for the festivities.

It was a different story in Brainerd, Minnesota, where residents braced for readings of 26 degrees below Fahreinheit on Monday night. Wind chills would make it feel more like 30 to 40 below, according to the National Weather Service.

Overnight temperatures in Pittsburgh should be just above freezing with wind chills at 14 below.

It is all part of a mass of Arctic air moving east on Monday from the Dakotas, bringing bone-chilling temperatures and occasional snow. More sustained snows fell around the Great Lakes region.

That's been the case in much of Ohio where low visibility and snow-covered roads caused serious traffic crashes.

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Near whiteout conditions from a snow squall spurred one of the worst accidents in Colerain Township, about 12 miles north of Cincinnati.

The pileup involved 86 vehicles, including 70 cars and 16 commercial vehicles, along a roughly quarter-mile stretch of Interstate 275, according to Colerain Township Fire Capt. Darian Edwards.

One person was killed and 20 others were transported to area hospitals, Edwards said. Authorities rescued four people from three vehicles in three different spots along the highway.

Around the same time and about 30 miles east in Warren County, heavy snow and low visibility contributed to a crash on Interstate 75 that involved 52 cars, said Ohio State Highway Patrol Sgt. Sean Whickman.

Ten people were sent to hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries and part of the highway was closed for four hours, he added.

Another whiteout near Columbus caused a 23-vehicle crash on Interstate 270 in Westerville, said Lt. Jeff McIntyre of the city's fire department. Four people went to hospitals with minor injuries, he said.

The highway was shut down for more than two hours.

Several people about 55 miles north in Mansfield suffered minor injuries in an accident on Interstate 71 that involved 21 cars and four semis, according to a state highway patrol dispatcher.

All four of these crash sites are among the hundreds of communities under wind chill advisories.

At 30 below zero, frostbite can occur in as little as 10 minutes with the slightest winds, and in five minutes in a brisk breeze, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns.

Newborns, the elderly and the homeless can quickly fall victim to hypothermia.

"Cold weather puts an extra strain on the heart," the CDC said, also noting that overexertion can become even more dangerous to those with heart conditions in the Arctic cold.

Although such deep freezes are potentially deadly, they are not uncommon in the upper midsection of the United States.

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