Update: The death toll from a massive pileup caused by a snow squall in northeast Pennsylvania Monday has risen to six—and authorities who initially estimated 50 vehicles were involved now say the chain-reaction crash involved 80 vehicles, with wreckage stretching for a mile on Interstate 81, the New York Times. State police said Monday that three people had been killed, but with many vehicles still burning, they were unable to complete a search of the wreckage at the time, reports WGAL. Meteorologists say around an inch of snow fell in just 20 minutes in the area Monday and the squall left motorists unable to see what was in their path. Around 24 injured people were hospitalized and the northbound lanes remained closed until early Wednesday. Our story from Monday follows:
A snow squall in northeast Pennsylvania caused a massive crash involving at least 50 vehicles, state troopers say. John Blickley of Schuylkill County's emergency management office tells USA Today that the crash happened on Interstate 81 at around 10:30am and at least 20 people were hospitalized with injuries. Bickley says reduced visibility caused by the snow squall led to the crash, which involved multiple tractor-trailers. Dr. David J. Moylan, the Schuylkill County coroner, later said that at least three people had been killed in the crash and that the death toll could rise.
Blickley says some people were trapped in their cars and snowy conditions made rescue efforts difficult. Footage shared on social media Monday shows a tractor-trailer smashing into a large dump truck near the Minersville exit as another truck spews smoke and flames, the AP reports. "Approx. 50-60 vehicles involved w/ multiple injuries," a Pennsylvania State Police trooper tweeted Monday afternoon. "A large fire involving several vehicles continues to burn."
National Weather Service forecaster Mike Colbert tells the AP that pileups are the reason the service started issuing warnings on snow squalls, heavy snow showers that he describes as "instant blizzards" that can arrive in seconds where skies were previously sunny. Earlier Monday, the service warned motorists in Pennsylvania that "squalls will quickly reduce the visibility to under one-half of a mile and coat the roads with snow,” and that drivers should turn on their hazard lights and "gradually slow down to avoid a chain reaction vehicular accident.” (Read more Pennsylvania stories.)