Bitter cold and blowing snow create dangerous conditions from northern Plains to Northeast
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By The Associated Press
HAZLETON, Pa. (AP) -- Windy, bitterly cold weather spread from the northern Plains to the Northeast on Sunday, with blinding snow canceling church services in parts of Michigan and causing a 68-vehicle pileup in Pennsylvania.
A woman died in the Pennsylvania pileup when her car became wedged underneath a tractor-trailer, said Lt. Jason Zoshak of Hazleton Township Fire and Rescue. About 35 people were injured, and at least 24 people whose cars were not drivable were taken to shelters, he said.
Firefighters used ropes to rescue people who had scrambled out of their cars and jumped down an embankment to avoid being hit. "They had a heavy snow squall going through the area, zero visibility, high winds," Zoshak said. "There were vehicles everywhere."
Also in Pennsylvania, a 60-foot tree toppled by high winds fell onto a sport utility vehicle traveling along a Berks County road, killing a 48-year-old man and critically injuring his 49-year-old wife, state police said.
The bitter cold snap and strong winds also created icy driving conditions that shut down interstates and highways in Wisconsin. Wind chills sent the temperature plunging to at least 35 degrees below zero on Sunday.
The Wisconsin State Highway Patrol closed a seven-mile stretch of Interstate 39/90 just south of Madison for about an hour and a half because of icy driving conditions. Strong winds blew snow around to create near-whiteouts and snow drifts.
It was the same area -- but in the opposite direction -- where thousands of motorists were stranded for as long as 12 hours in a snowstorm last week.
In Michigan, the body of a missing 87-year-old man with Alzheimer's disease was found Sunday morning about five blocks from his Leland home. The man died of exposure to the cold, the Leelanau County sheriff's department said.
Michigan State Police said the Mackinac Bridge, a five-mile span that links Michigan's two peninsulas, was closed for several hours due to high winds and whiteout conditions. Authorities reopened it Sunday evening, letting vehicles cross at slow speed under police escort.
Churches across western Michigan canceled services, The Grand Rapids Press reported. "The road conditions are just terrible. There's been slide-offs all over and the roads are very icy," said William Marino, a weather service meteorologist in Grand Rapids.
Sunday's Lansing Polar Plunge charity benefit, in which people were to jump into the cold water at Hawk Island County Park, was reset to Feb. 24, the Lansing State Journal reported. Sunday's midday temperature was only zero, but the wind chill was 23 below zero, the weather service said.
Terry Gerhartz, of Chilton, Wis., said he made sure not to have any exposed skin when he went to his fish shanty on Lake Winnebago. "If you got stuck out there, you'd get cold in a hurry," Gerhartz, 48, said as he warmed up at a restaurant in Hilbert.
In Madison, Wis., the temperature was minus-4 with a wind chill of minus-25, while Green Bay's temperatures got down to minus-6, with a wind chill of minus-32.
Sunday's noon reading at Devils Lake, N.D., was 20 below, with a wind chill of minus 38, the weather service said. On Saturday, the town warmed to a high of 13 below -- with a wind chill of minus-42.
International Falls, Minn., the Canadian border city that's won the trademark of "Icebox of the Nation," was only 15 degrees below zero by noon Sunday, but the wind chill was a painful 40 below.