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US weather: Snowstorm causes 50-car pileup as America prepares for Arctic blast

Alex Woodward

More than 50 cars crashed on a strip of Ohio freeway in the middle of a snowstorm as the US braces for severe weather and hundreds of record-breaking, below-freezing temperatures overnight.

Whiteout conditions across the northeast and midwest caused several accidents, some deadly, as an Arctic blast of frigid weather moves eastward. Many roads and schools have closed and thousands of flights were cancelled or delayed as millions of Americans prepare for an early winter blast of Arctic air.

The 50-car pileup sent several people to area hospitals. Two people were seriously injured.

On Monday, three people were killed in a two-vehicle crash in Michigan that local police attribute to heavy snow in the area. In Kansas, a truck lost control on an icy highway and crashed head-on into another truck, killing an 8-year-old girl in the other vehicle.

At Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, a plane landing from Greensboro, North Carolina slid off an icy runway as it tried to land. None of the 38 passengers were injured.

On Tuesday morning, a New York City-bound bus flipped on its side on a snowy stretch of highway near Syracuse. Seven people had minor injuries.

Freezing weather will move from the central plains and midwest overnight, bringing below-normal temperatures and icy conditions across the central and eastern US and ice warnings from as far south as the Texas and Louisiana coasts, to the Carolinas and Virginias, and up to New York and northern Maine, according to the National Weather Service, which is calling the event a "widespread record cold".

Overnight, temperatures are expected to drop as much as 15 to 20 degrees lower than normal for the time of year. In some areas, temperatures already dropped as much as 30C within 24 hours earlier this week.

More than 300 areas across the US could see record-breaking low temperatures, including coastal Louisiana, parts of which are under hard-freeze warnings with a forecast of -4C, and in Michigan, where 100-year-old records of low temperatures are likely to break in several cities overnight, with single-digit temperatures expected early Wednesday morning.

In Pensacola, Florida, a record low of -1C from 1911 is forecast to break as temperatures dip under -5C.

The mass of unusually cold air moving from Siberia -- a phenomenon called "Siberian Express" -- is expected to last until Wednesday night.

The National Weather Service anticipates temperatures will begin to warm on Thursday once the system moves offshore from the East Coast.

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