- Associated Press - Friday, January 9, 2015

DETROIT (AP) - Intense winter weather led to crashes that killed at least three people Friday, closed many schools across Michigan and likely caused a water main break that flooded a Detroit-area hospital’s emergency room.

Snow-covered and icy stretches of Interstate 94 in Kalamazoo County, I-75 near Saginaw and U.S. 23 south of Ann Arbor were closed due to multiple accidents. On I-94, more than 100 vehicles were involved in a pileup, which caused fires on trucks that were carrying fireworks and acid. A trucker from Ottawa, Canada, was killed. Another motorist died in the I-75 wreck in Birch Run Township.

And on U.S. 23, a man was killed in a pileup that involved tractor-trailers and more than a dozen other vehicles. The cab of a semi broke loose from the chassis, Pittsfield Township Fire Chief Sean Gleason told The Ann Arbor News.

“It was a horrendous,” Gleason said. “I’ve never seen anything like that.”

A weather system that descended from southern Canada dropped two to three inches of snow across all of southeastern Michigan, National Weather Service meteorologist Dave Kook said. Western Michigan, especially along Lake Michigan, received higher snowfalls, he added.

Coupled with the wind and temperatures below freezing, the weather made for hazardous travel.

“The really cold temperatures lead to a light and fluffy snow that is easily pushed around by the high winds,” Kook said. “You also have to deal with wind gusts up to 30 miles an hour blowing the snow. The colder you get, the less salt works on the roadways. You can clear the depth of the snow away, but any packed snow and ice will remain there.”

Officials at McLaren Oakland hospital in Pontiac, north of Detroit, closed its emergency room to new patients early Friday after a water main burst.

Several feet of water flooded the emergency room, Vice President of Marketing, Planning and Public Relations Sharyl Smith told The Detroit News.

“We haven’t even had a chance to get in and really start any sort of assessment,” Smith said. “If you’ve ever had a basement flooded, you know you don’t really have any idea until you can get down there and look around.”

The weather also kept many college and grade-school students at home Friday.

Kalamazoo College, Grand Valley State University and Grand Rapids Community College were closed, along with hundreds of elementary, middle and high schools. Some districts that shut for the day included Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Saginaw and Traverse City. Some Kalamazoo-area schools were closed for the third consecutive day.

Another surge of arctic air was expected Friday night, Kook said. Temperatures were to hover around or just below freezing with wind chills as low as 20-below-zero.

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