A large portion of the U.S. is still in the grip of an Arctic blast that has wreaked havoc on school schedules and travel plans. The deep freeze and snowy roads are also the cause of a 200-car pileup in Michigan that killed one motorist and set off an entire semi full of fireworks on Friday.
The massive accident began when snow-covered roads caused several tractor-trailer trucks to slam into each other on Interstate 94 at Galesburg near Kalamazoo, Michigan. A truck driver from Ottawa, Canada, was killed early in the pileup, but cars and trucks continued to slam into the growing pileup due to the wind-blown snow and cold temperatures.
Before all was said and done, some 200 vehicles became entangled in the mess. One of those involved was carrying a truckload of fireworks. Like many others, the truck soon caught fire, sending whistling fireworks off in every direction.
Along with the one fatality, at least 22 others were injured in the massive wreck.
The scene at Galesburg was repeated, though on a smaller scale, with some 50 vehicles on US 23 near Milan, Michigan. One fatality occurred in that accident, as well.
Michigan wasn’t alone. A chain-reaction crash also hit Interstate 70 near Denver.
But there won’t be any relief for most of the country as a second Arctic blast is pushing eastward from the Great Plains and will keep temperatures in the Midwest and points east in single digits at least until Sunday.
Chicago will continue to experience freezing temperatures until Sunday when temperatures may reach into the lower 30s.
The cold weather caused a water main to break in Chicago’s Union Station, inconveniencing thousands of commuters right as the evening rush hour was starting.
Schools across the country were shut down due to the cold, but Chicago schools reopened on Friday after two days off.
Meanwhile, the cold snap continued to bring colder-than-average temperatures in Washington DC with temps expected to stay in the lower 20s on Saturday.
In North Carolina, Duke Energy officials reported that customers set a record for winter power use on Thursday.
“By 8 a.m. Thursday, a total of 14,473 megawatt-hours of electricity was recorded by the utility company,” WRAL reported. “The number surpassed the previous record of 14,190 megawatt-hours set on Jan. 7, 2014 during the so-called polar vortex.”
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at email@example.com.