Michigan officials on Friday briefly evacuated the area of a fatal pileup of 150 vehicles on an icy interstate, including a trailer transporting formic acid and another one carrying fireworks, which both caught on fire.
A Michigan sheriff told a reporter that the portion of the interstate where the crash occurred was in a “wind tunnel.” At least 50 to 60 semi-trucks were involved in the pileup, the sheriff told another WXMI reporter.
The accident on Interstate 94 was the most severe incident so far in three days of bitter cold and snow that have gripped the Midwest and the East Coast as an Arctic blast moves into the United States, causing snowflakes as far south as Florida.
Wood TV reports that one fatality is confirmed and at least six people have been injured, with one person in serious condition and the other five in fair condition.
Micah Stanislowski, whose vehicle was one of at least 150 involved in the pileup, recounted how the pileup began and the fires led to the fireworks truck and others exploding. Stanislowski said vehicles couldn’t stop in time due to the snow and visibility conditions.
“Right in front of me the trucks started to go crazy. You couldn’t see a single thing at the time of all the accidents. I was able to pull off and just watch semi after semi and semi and semi hit each other and cars hit each other. I mean people were going full speed ahead.”
Heather Jackson was also involved in the pileup. She described having debris from the burning fireworks truck making the surrounding scene a hazard, reported WWMT.
“I’m getting debris from the fire on my car. I can see the fire now from here. There’s fireworks going off,” said Heather Jackson, who was involved in the pile-up. “As I approached I realized that all the cars were stopped in front of me. I seen some in the ditch and I seen cars behind me coming at me at regular speed and I knew if I didn’t go into the ditch I was going to be hit. [An emergency responder] said they’re not going to be able to put out the fire. The fire is just going to have to continue until it’s done.”
In the aftermath of winter storm Gorgon, many states are left in an icy condition. Leading up to the crash, the forecast for the area showed blowing snow and a high of 9 degrees with a wind chill as low as -10 degrees, according to the National Weather Service, which warned that travel was hazardous in Michigan.
Interstate 94 – a major highway that connects the Great Lakes with the mountainous areas in the center of the country – was shut down in both directions.