Blinding snow squalls, high winds and a slick highway led to a mile-long series of crashes in Detroit that left at least three people dead, including two children, and 20 more injured.
Michigan State Police Lt. Michael Shaw said visibility was extremely poor when the mass of crashes happened on Interstate 75 on the southwest side of the city. The injured, also including children, have been taken to hospitals, Shaw said.
A similar pileup west of Indianapolis involving more than 40 vehicles closed Interstate 70 in both directions. There was no immediate word on injuries, but the roadway was expected to be closed for several hours.
In Detroit, SUVs with smashed front ends and cars with doors hanging open sat scattered across the debris-littered highway, some crunched against jackknifed tractor-trailers and tankers. Rescue crews went vehicle to vehicle in the search for survivors and to provide aid.
Motorists and passengers who were able to climb out of their vehicles huddled together on the side of the road, some visibly distraught, others looking dazed. A man and woman hugged under the grey, cloud-filled skies, a pair of suitcases next to them and a bumper on the ground behind.
Conditions went from "clear to total whiteout in a matter of seconds," Shaw said. "All of a sudden, they couldn't see anymore."
More than 40 vehicles were involved in two other chain-reaction crashes in Michigan.
U.S. 23 in Grand Blanc Township near Flint was closed Thursday after more than 20 vehicles crashed during a sudden snow squall. In southwest Michigan, eight tractor-trailers and six cars crashed on I-94, closing the westbound lanes to traffic at Paw Paw in Van Buren County.
About 30 vehicles were involved in the pileups in Detroit and scores more were trapped on the freeway behind the accident scene for hours. Shaw expected the freeway to be fully reopened sometime in the afternoon.