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Deadly crashes mount across Midwest, Northeast as snow covers nearly 30% of US

Mark Puleo

From record-breaking cold in the South to travel nightmares in the Midwest and into the Ohio Valley, and heavy snow accumulation in New England, the storm system sweeping across the middle of the country this week has sent millions of Americans scurrying to their calendars to ensure they're flipped to the right month.

The early-season snowstorm, that the National Weather Service said contributed to nearly 30% of the country being covered in snow as of Wednesday, is the culprit behind at least six fatalities related to accidents and multiple massive multi-vehicle pileups that snarled traffic for hours on Tuesday.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol said the driver of a semitrailer was ejected and killed after he crashed into an emergency vehicle early Tuesday morning on Interstate 70 in Clark County, WHIO-TV reported.

Another person, a 21-year-old woman from Medina, was killed in a 16-vehicle crash on the Ohio Turnpike in Richfield at about 9 a.m. EDT Tuesday morning WJW-TV said. The crash closed the westbound lanes of the Turnpike between Interstate 271 and Ohio 8, the Ohio Department of Transportation reported.

One of the pileups involved 85 vehicles on State Road 8 in Summit County, Ohio, amid whiteout conditions Tuesday morning, News 5 Cleveland reports.

"Around 6 a.m. EDT, some very heavy lake effect snow squalls began pushing through the Akron and Youngstown areas in the vicinity of where the pileups occurred," AccuWeather Meteorologist Derek Witt said.

WEWS-TV reported five people had minor injuries. The Ohio Department of Transportation reopened the roadway in both directions later on Tuesday. Snow accumulations in the areas north of Akron were in the range of 2 to 4 inches as of Tuesday evening.

"Visibility dropped as low as one-fourth of a mile at times throughout the morning hours as heavy lake effect snow squalls continued moving through northeastern Ohio," Witt said.

A second major pileup was reported on I-80 near Austintown, Ohio, about 10 miles west of Youngstown, where snow reports in the area show upwards of 2 to 3.5 inches. The crash involved approximately 50 vehicles and included several tractor-trailer, according to local TV station WTAJ. As of Tuesday night, two people were seriously injured, according to WJW-TV.

"The combination of reduced visibility and roadways that were already slick from snow caused driving to become very dangerous very quickly," Witt said.

Earlier Tuesday, a separate crash involving a jackknifed tractor-trailer shut down eastbound I-76 west of the Meander Reservoir for about an hour, WFMJ reported.

Emergency responders were called to a crash involving a bus in Preble, New York, at 1:36 a.m EST Tuesday. Seven passengers on the New York City-bound bus escaped serious injury, The Associated Press reported. According to officials, the driver lost control on the snow-covered roadway and crashed onto its side in the median. The driver, 45-year-old Yong Zhen, was ticketed for speed not reasonable and prudent for conditions, according to WNBF.com.

The Van Buren County Sheriff's Office says the 40-year-old man was using a skid-steer loader to move snow Tuesday morning at a business near Bangor when he became trapped beneath its bucket.

Southwestern Michigan police say a man using heavy machinery to clear snow from his marijuana grow business died after he became trapped beneath part of the machinery, according to Midland Daily News.

Significant amounts of snow fell across portions of Southwestern Lower Michigan, resulting in over two feet in some locations, where AccuWeather's Blake Naftel reported mass amounts of lake-effect snow of up to 20 inches were dumped. Naftel traveled to Bangor Township in Van Buren County, Michigan, where residents are starting to dig out.

AccuWeather Reporter Blake Naftel interviews Bangor, Michigan resident Bill Nutting.

"We're used to like a foot, but this is like two to three feet! I just drove with my truck through a drift up to the door handles, it was on a two-track that someone already had broken through, so I wasn't busting it through, but yeah it was deep," Bill Nutting, a resident and restaurant co-owner in Bangor, Michigan, told Naftel in an interview.

In Massachusetts, the NWS urged drivers to watch out for patchy ice spots on roads.

In Missouri, the State Highway Patrol reported on Twitter that hundreds of crashes and slide-offs and dozens of injuries had occurred on Monday. In the western portion of the state, the cities of Kirksville and St. Joseph both reported record-low temperatures on Tuesday morning, as Kirksville dropped to 2 F and St. Joseph reached 6 degrees. Kansas City fell to 8 degrees, which just missed the record low set in 1911.

A tragic accident occurred on Monday morning when an 8-year-old girl, identified by the Kansas Highway Patrol as Cassie N. Ralston, was killed in a three-car accident in Osage County, Kansas. Her father, Terry Ralston, was the driver of the vehicle and he suffered minor injuries. Freezing temperatures and strong winds were reported in the area at the time. According to the accident log, three other individuals were taken to the hospital with injuries.

With over 1,500 flights canceled in Chicago, not including one plane that landed at O'Hare International and promptly slid off the runway, and accidents around Missouri blamed on the ice, Monday turned into a day of travel nightmares for the Midwestern region. On Monday night, three Michigan residents were killed in an accident that officials blame on snowy conditions. Another individual, who was operating the other car involved in the accident, was taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries.

Freezing temperatures were also rampant throughout the Northeast as a wintry mix forced hundreds of schools in Vermont to close on Tuesday. In New York, the National Weather Service (NWS) reported over 10 inches of snowfall at Buffalo International Airport.

With temperatures expected to continue dropping throughout the week, classes in the Bay State may be canceled or delayed on Wednesday. According to the NWS, two locations in western Massachusetts have already recorded over an inch of snow as of 12 p.m. EST.

Additional reporting from Michigan by Blake Naftel.

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