March 29, 2022
Dozens of vehicles were involved in a frightening, chain reaction car crash Monday morning on Interstate 81 in Schuylkill County, where a snow squall swept through the area and wiped out visibility on the highway. At least five people are confirmed to have died and two dozen others were hospitalized.
Pennsylvania State Police said between 50-60 vehicles were involved in the pileup, including several that remained on fire at the scene into Monday afternoon.
SCHUYLKILL COUNTY - Foster Twp: Multiple vehicle pileup crash on I-81 N in the area of MM 116 due to a snow squall. Approx. 50-60 vehicles involved w/ multiple injuries. A large fire involving several vehicles continues to burn. PSP cannot confirm fatalities at this time. pic.twitter.com/M6NmRfUk4p— Trooper Beohm (@PSPTroopLPIO) March 28, 2022
The crash happened around 10:30 a.m. on the northbound lanes of I-81 near Minersville, which is about 100 miles northwest of Philadelphia. Some motorists who involved in the crash, exited their vehicles and recorded video of subsequent collisions.
At least three tractor-trailers awere believed to be on fire and two other small fires were reported on the highway, according to USA Today.
Emergency services and fire crews worked to get the flames under control into Monday evening.
The incident resulted in the closure of all lanes on I-81 North in Schuylkill County between the Route 901 exit (116) and the Highridge Park Road exit (119), according to PennDOT. This section of the highway remained closed into Tuesday morning.
The National Weather Service issued a snow squall warning for several counties in Pennsylvania on Monday, urging drivers to slow down or delay travel. Drivers were warned to be ready for sudden drops to near-zero visibility and icy roads in areas with heavy snowfall. These short-lived events are especially dangerous because they often appear with gusty surface winds, lightning and rapid accumulation of snow, creating a flash freeze that deteriorates road safety and visibility.
People involved in the crash described harrowing, foggy road conditions and the sudden sounds of cars colliding.
"Couldn't even see three feet in front of me," Hershey resident Lillie Weaver told WNEP. "Then I knew I was getting close to an exit, so I went over into the right lane, and by then, my car had slid completely over into the bank and there was no visibility. I could only hear cars around me hitting each other."
The incident came in the midst of a cold snap that has led to unseasonably low temperatures over the past few days in much of the Northeast. The Philadelphia area and the Mid-Atlantic could be in for severe weather later this week after a major warm-up arrives by Thursday.
It's not yet clear how soon the closed portion of I-81 will reopen in Schuylkill County.