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March 13, 2014

Three dead after pileups on turnpike

TOLEDO, Ohio — Pileups on the Ohio Turnpike involving at least 50 vehicles killed three people and seriously injured a state trooper on Wednesday as a late-winter storm swept through the Midwest and the Northeast, ending a fleeting spring-like thaw.

Emergency workers on the busy toll road struggled to reach accidents and stuck vehicles because of snowy conditions and traffic backups. Pileups stretched across a 2-mile section in the eastbound lanes of the turnpike between Toledo and Cleveland. Another series of pileups about 10 miles to the east shut down the turnpike’s westbound lanes near Sandusky.

Drivers sat for hours, a few braving the cold to stretch their legs, said Mike Ramella, a salesman from the Cleveland suburb of Westlake.

“I’m just sending emails, still working,” said Ramella, who was in the middle of a 7-mile backup.

A trooper responding to an accident was pinned between vehicles, said the Ohio State Highway Patrol, which confirmed the deaths of the three other people but didn’t immediately have further details. One vehicle lane opened about four hours after the first accident.

Trooper Andrew Clouser, 29, was in serious but stable condition at a Toledo hospital Wednesday night, Ohio patrol Staff Lt. Anne Ralston said.

Across the region, people fired up snow blowers, hoisted shovels and slogged through sloppy and treacherous commutes.

Tens of thousands of homes and businesses in northern Illinois and Indiana lost power, and a few hundred flights were canceled at Chicago’s airports. The city, where streets and sidewalks had only just dried out for the first time in months, got about 6 inches of snow. Heavy winds whipped it into a blinding wall that even blotted out the lit-up skyline for a few hours before dawn and left trees glazed with gloppy gobs of white.

People from Chicago to Buffalo, N.Y., were left wondering whether the start of spring was really just a week away.

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