A brutal blast of frigid air sweeping across the United States wreaked havoc on roads in Virginia and Maryland, leaving at least three dead in multi-vehicle wrecks Saturday, authorities said.
A 55-vehicle crash on an icy stretch of I-95 in Baltimore left at least two people dead and motorists stranded for hours about 5 a.m. Saturday, according to Chief Roman Clark, a Baltimore Fire Department spokesman. Fifteen people were taken to hospitals.
A video posted on social media showed a fuel truck flipping over a median on the interstate near the Washington Boulevard exit before erupting in flames, CNN affiliate WBAL reported. Clark confirmed the video showed the I-95 crash.
WARNING: This video from social media contains language and material that some viewers may find disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised.
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said good Samaritans helped pull people out of cars.
"This is the worst accident that we've seen," she said.
Emergency vehicles descended on the scene, stalling traffic for miles and leading authorities to urge stranded motorists on both sides of the interstate to "remain warm and calm and shelter in place" in their cars, Clark said.
The cause of the wreck was under investigation but Clark described road conditions as "very slippery."
In northern Virginia, authorities responded to more than 40 traffic accidents, some involving multiple vehicles, according to the state police.
One person was killed after a multi-vehicle crash at 5:12 a.m. on Interstate 495 in Fairfax County, state police said.
The man appeared to have been involved in a 23-vehicle collision -- including two tractor trailers -- under "slick and treacherous" road conditions, according to the state police. His body was found on the shoulder of the interstate about one mile north of the accident scene. An autopsy was to be performed.
At Dulles Airport, just outside Washington D.C., icy conditions forced the closure of runways for part of the morning. Two runways were reopened about 11 a.m.
Nationally, there were 1,870 flight cancellations, according to FlightAware.
The dangerous conditions arrived as some people started their holiday travel early.
"If you don't have to go out on the roads, we would ask that you just stay in at this time until the temperatures rise," Clark told CNN.
In Indiana, the Wayne Township Fire Department and the Indianapolis police used a ladder to evacuate stranded drivers from I-465.
Police in Marion and Hendricks counties responded to nearly 200 accidents, 36 involving injuries, between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., according to the Indianapolis police.
In northwest Missouri, I-29 reopened to traffic Saturday after dozens of drivers were trapped in their cars the night before, CNN affiliate KQTV reported.
Dangerous wind chill
The frigid air blast is bringing bone-chilling winds and subfreezing temperatures to millions across the country this weekend.
The National Weather Service warns that the massive system will produce heavy snow from parts of northern California to the Great Lakes.
Its reach will extend into the southern Rockies and New England by Saturday.
Major coastal cities in the Northeast will see a changeover from snow to rain by Saturday evening.
A strong storm over the central Rockies will move northeast to New England by Sunday morning.
Potentially life threatening wind chills as low as 50 degrees below zero are expected in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Colorado and Idaho.
Portions of Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota could get the coldest air the region has seen in two years.
New York, Washington and Boston had extremely cold temperatures Saturday, with the wind chill ranging from minus 10 to minus 35 degrees in some locations from Pennsylvania up into Maine.