The Chronicle-Tribune, Jeff Morehead, Associated Press
TOLEDO, Ohio — A storm that swept through the Midwest and the Northeast just a week before the start of spring caused pileups on the Ohio Turnpike involving at least 50 vehicles, leaving three people dead and a state trooper seriously injured.
Snowy conditions along the busy toll road Wednesday had emergency workers struggling to reach accidents stretched across a 2-mile section in the eastbound lanes between Toledo and Cleveland. Another series of pileups about 10 miles to the east shut down the turnpike's westbound lanes near Sandusky.
Between 6 to 8 inches of snow fell on Cleveland and northeast Ohio.
Mike Ramella, a salesman from the Cleveland suburb of Westlake, was among the drivers mired in a 7-mile backup.
"I'm surrounded," by snow and cars, he told his wife on the phone. He said he was trying to get home to her and their three children, including a newborn, after a business trip to Michigan but was unable to make it to the next exit.
A trooper responding to an accident was pinned between vehicles, said the Ohio State Highway Patrol, which confirmed the deaths of the three other people but didn't immediately have further details.
Highway Patrolman Andrew Clouser, 29, was in serious but stable condition at a Toledo hospital Wednesday night, said Ohio patrol Staff Lt. Anne Ralston.
People from Chicago to Buffalo, N.Y., to Burlington, Vt., were left wondering whether the start of spring was really next week as the snow fell and temperatures began tumbling.
Tens of thousands of homes and businesses in northern Illinois and Indiana lost power, and a few hundred flights were canceled at Chicago's airports. The city, where streets and sidewalks had only just dried out for the first time in months, got about 6 inches of snow.
Stephen Rodriguez, National Weather Service meteorologist in Romeoville, Ill., said winds causing heavy, wet snow to blow and drift likely would create a frustrating morning commute on Thursday.
As much as 9.3 inches of snow fell on southern Michigan Wednesday, causing spin-outs and slide-off crashes. The totals were expected to bring Michigan close to breaking a 133-year-old record.
In downtown South Bend, Indiana, where already more than 100 inches of snow has fallen this winter — nearly 3 feet above normal — there was another 4 inches on the ground.
"I'm tired of the snow. Yesterday we had a real nice day and today it's back to winter and cold and terrible," said Debi Ciesielski, who was shoveling snow outside a parking garage as part of her work as a Downtown South Bend Ambassador.
But a few blocks away, Ken Peczkowski , who has owned Griffon Games and Bookstore for 40 years, was happy to be out shoveling the snow again.
"The more the merrier. I'd do it every day for as long as it takes," he said. "It makes me feel alive."
Wednesday's storm moved east, hitting the Great Lakes in Ohio, Pennsylvania, upstate New York and parts of New England. The National Weather Service said the storm was expected to head to eastern Canada and dissipate.
Associated Press writers Tom Coyne in South Bend, Ind., Ashley M. Heher in Chicago, Carolyn Thompson in Buffalo, N.Y., and Rick Callahan in Indianapolis contributed to this report.
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