Police said five people were killed and dozens injured in a massive collision between 75 and 100 vehicles on a frozen highway in Texas, as a winter storm brought freezing rain, frost and snow to parts of the United States.
At the scene of the accident on Interstate 35 near downtown Fort Worth, a tangle of trailers, cars, and trucks collided with one another and turned in every direction, with some vehicles on top of each other.
“Cars are completely disfigured,” said Matt Zavadsky, a spokesman for MedStar, which provides ambulance service to the area. “Multiple tow trucks at the scene. It will take a lot to dismantle this wreck.”
Zavadsky said 36 people were hospitalized after the crash, and many of them had serious injuries. The police set up a family reunification center in a community center.
“The road was so snowy that many first responders were falling at the scene,” Zavadsky said.
He said that his crews carried a mixture of sand and salt into the ambulances, and began using it at the scene. At one point, he said, one of the ambulances was hit, but only slightly damaged and the crew was fine.
Farther south, in the suburbs of Austin, more than two dozen vehicles were piled up on an icy highway, and five people were hospitalized, emergency officials said.
Steve Goose, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center, said the storm came in the form of a polar vortex – an air vortex that usually sits above the poles of the Earth – near the US-Canadian border, leading to cooler weather further south More than usual. In Norman, Oklahoma.
“As a result, we get unusually or unusually cold air flowing south through a large portion of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains,” he said.
In Tennessee, police responded to about 30 traffic collisions and delayed flights at Memphis International Airport after freezing rain and sleet. In Kentucky, the governor declared a state of emergency to free up funding and help agencies coordinate as they respond to reports of slick roads and stalled power lines. In southern Indiana, schools and government offices are closed.
Goss said the small turbulence moving across the polar jet stream would bring a “snapshot of winter weather” to the southern parts of the country.
He said that some areas that do not usually get snow will likely see heavy amounts over the next several days. He said current estimates show that some areas of the Southern Plains could advance or increase.