(CNN and NBC New) — A brutal blast of arctic air is bringing bone-chilling winds and subfreezing temperatures across US.
The cold, mixed with freezing rain, created treacherous road conditions over the weekend, causing multiple-car pileups and fatalities. At least 15 people have died as a result of the storm, authorities said.
According to NBC News published by CNBC, two people were killed and dozens were injured when a gasoline tanker skidded off an ice-covered Baltimore highway and exploded, sparking a 55-vehicle pileup ,authorities said.
“When I looked up I saw a lot of trailers slamming on each other going 50 mph. Basically they were piling up at 50 mph,” eyewitness Marvellous Amasiatu said of the 4:45 a.m. pileup on the elevated portion of I-95 in downtown Baltimore near the Washington Boulevard exit.
“Oh my God,” he said. “I could see those trailers coming. They had no idea how bad that bridge froze.”
The driver of the tanker truck was killed and one other person died in the pileup, which was sparked by debris from the tanker crash and explosion, Maryland Transportation Authority Police Lt. Kevin Ayd said. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
CNN added that more freezing rain is expected Monday in the Northeast, including Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Pittsburgh and Portland, Maine. Forecasters are calling for freezing rain as far south as Knoxville, Tennessee and Raleigh, North Carolina.
“These are all the areas where heavy rain will fall Sunday but then flash freezing will occur,” said CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar. “Simply meaning, any puddles or standing water left from the heavy rains will freeze over. Any commuters, or holiday travelers in those cities will be dealing with hazardous driving conditions Monday morning.”
There is good news, however, for the millions who will take to the roads and skies leading up to Christmas. The winter storm will give way to a “quieter weather pattern,” according to the National Weather Service.
“The weather will be relatively benign for much of the upcoming week,” said Chinchar. “The next system moves east into the Midwest by Wednesday-Thursday, but is not going to be as big of a storm event as we have had the past few weeks.”
More than 103 million Americans are expected to travel for the year-end holidays — the most on record — according to AAA. This represents a 1.5% increase, or about 1.5 million more people traveling, compared to last year, according to AAA.
CAPTION: A multiple-vehicla pile-up in US over the weekend. Photo: CNN
SOURCE: CNN’s Azadeh Ansari and Chandrika Naraya and NBC News via CNBC