A blast of cold air caused rain and wet roads to freeze across the Eastern U.S., triggering airport delays in the nation's capital and major traffic pileups in Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. Authorities say two people were killed in a chain-reaction accident in Baltimore involving a tanker carrying gasoline that skidded off a highway and exploded.
Baltimore City Fire Chief Roman Clark said two people were killed and at least 15 were injured in the 55-vehicle accident and tanker explosion on Interstate-95. Clark said the tanker careened off the highway, fell over a jersey wall and burst into flames.
Clark said it's too early to say whether the crash was caused by slick roads, although scores of traffic accidents were being reported across the region due to icy roads.
"The roads were very icy," Clark said. "We have nothing but sheets of ice throughout the city, sidewalks," he said.
Officials have not released the names of the two people killed in the crash. Clark said it's unclear whether the pileup started before the tanker crash or was caused by the incident.
Earlier Saturday, Bob Maloney of the Baltimore City Office of Emergency Management was quoted by WBAL-TV as saying that at least 30 cars were involved in an accident on northbound I-95.
Baltimore County said on Twitter that between 15 and 20 vehicles were involved in a crash on I-695 near Rosedale. Six people were taken to the hospital.
The National Weather Service has issued a wintry weather advisory for the Baltimore area, meaning that periods of sleet and freezing rain through noon will lead to slippery roads and limited visibility.
In Virginia, meanwhile, State Police say 41 traffic crashes were reported in the northern part of the state. It was unclear how many were due to slick roads. One fatality was reported.
Authorities in Ohio say a Columbus woman was killed Saturday after her car skidded off a slick road.
Two airports serving the nation's capital are experiencing delays or cancellations Saturday.
Washington Dulles International airport reopened two runways after having to close all runways for more than three hours due to icy weather. Wintry weather forced the airport to halt all flights early Saturday. The airport says two runways reopened for flights as of 10 a.m., but that travels should expect residual cancelations and delays.
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority says Reagan Washington National Airport is operating normally, but some flights may be delayed or cancelled due to bad weather along the East coast.
A spokesman for Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport says the weather is causing some delays and cancelations but no runways have been closed.
In central North Carolina, light freezing rain has caused scores of traffic accidents, adding to the road mayhem scattered throughout the Eastern U.S.
Police and emergency workers reported more than 100 crashes overnight Saturday in Raleigh and Charlotte as the drizzle combined with temperatures below freezing for approaching 40 hours combined to create dangerous icy patches.
Charlotte police reported two people dead in separate fatal crashes early Saturday, although investigators are still trying to figure out if ice caused the wrecks.