Weekend Storm Wreaks Havoc
January 3, 1999
Jan. 4 – The eastern half of the country was hit with the first big storm of the winter over the New Year holiday and the weekend. The winter storm dumped as much as 2 feet of snow in some areas of the Midwest, with windy conditions making travel even more difficult. On I-75 near Grayling, MI, more than 100 vehicles crashed into each other last Thursday after a sudden snowstorm created whiteout conditions.
One person was killed, and 41 people were treated at local hospitals as a result of the pileup, which spread out over nearly a mile and involved 114 vehicles. Some were piled three-high.
Police officer Dennis Long said the conditions were so blinding that it was like driving down the road and a passenger suddenly put a box over your head, according to wire reports. “It was like somebody pulled a curtain down.” Visibility was less than a foot at the time of the accident. A light sheet of ice on the road, crowded with holiday travelers, made matters worse.
Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive was closed after sandbags were used to keep waves from Lake Michigan from flooding it. Winds gusting up to 60- mph created whiteout conditions. The last time Chicago experienced a storm this bad was in 1994, with 750 salt trucks and snowplows deployed compared to the normal 254.
As the cold front headed south, it clashed with warmer air, creating powerful thunderstorms and tornadoes further south, and freezing rain in Arkansas and nearby states.
Marti Driskell, a trucker in Florida, reported that even without the snow, the weather conditions were hazardous, with I-95 in south Florida closed due to flooding.