I-80 reopen after four separate crashes back-up traffic in Austi - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

UPDATE:

I-80 reopen after four separate crashes back-up traffic in Austintown

Posted: Updated:
AUSTINTOWN TWP., Ohio -

Interstate 80 has been reopened after four separate crashes snarled traffic for three hours on Tuesday. 

The Ohio State Highway Patrol says that shortly after noon on Tuesday there were three accidents in the westbound lanes of I-80, and another just across the median in the eastbound lane. 

OSP says the accidents are believed to involve at least 22 vehicles, many of which are tractor trailers and both a sudden snowfall and speed have been determined as the cause.

Lieutenant Jerad Sutton is a Supervisor with the Ohio State Highway Patrol, "Snow and speed.  The snow came in quickly, the visibility reduced, and then with the primary crash as the people approached it they started to break and then with an assured cleared distance they weren't able to slow in time and that's when the collision occurred."

According to Troopers, one accident involved a tractor-trailer and a passenger vehicle. 

That spawned a chain reaction crash reportedly that involved six vehicles total, and that included three semi trucks and three passenger vehicles. 

The third crash was at least 11 vehicles, and involved seven semi trucks and four passenger vehicles.

"The original crash is what started it and as they started to back up more and more semi trucks and cars got piled into," Lt. Sutton said.

In the eastbound lane, one crash involving three cars caused a smaller traffic disturbance. 

For nearly three hours, traffic was rerouted from I-80 to Route 46. 

Troopers say the interstate reopened around 3:30 p.m. after crews cleared the wreckage from nearly two dozen vehicles out of both the eastbound and westbound lanes. 

Crews were also called out from the Ohio Department of Transportation to make sure all lanes were salted and deiced before allowing traffic to return to the interstate. 

Several ambulances and a medical helicopter were called to the crash scene.  However, the helicopter was canceled due to bad weather.

Ohio State Highway Patrol Dispatchers say they do not have a tally on how many people were injured but troopers on scene say two people from a black SUV were transported to area hospitals.  One of the victims was a child.  Their injuries are believed to be critical but not life threatening.

"The people that were injured the plate on the car that they were in was a Florida plate.  We haven't identified the Florida people yet," Lt. Sutton told 21 News.

At this time, officials say they believe the crashes were caused by nearly white-out conditions. 

Chief Meteorologist Eric Wilhelm says the lake effect snow squalls which have been moving through the Valley for portions of the day can frequently cause issues like this. 

"We often see more accidents on a day like today than a day when we have a big snowstorm," said Wilhelm. 

Wilhelm said that quick squalls can often produce limited visibility- dropping to whiteout conditions in less than half a mile. 

Wilhelm said the snow is expected to taper off and wind down by sunset. 

The 21 News Drone, powered by 680 Aerials, was able to get a bird's eye view of the crashes, and the traffic which remains backed up for miles. That video can be viewed above. 

In addition, photos from the scene can be seen in a slideshow below. 

This is a developing story. Stay with 21 News for more information as it becomes available. 

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