Treacherous whiteout conditions are to blame for Thursday afternoon's massive multi-vehicle pileup on Interstate 94 in Michigan City, Indiana that killed at least three people and injured several others.
At least 15 semi trucks and several passenger cars are involved in the massive pileup on Interstate 94 near Michigan City, and several cars remain pinned under some of the semi trucks.
Indiana State Police said Interstate 94 eastbound remains closed and heavy machinery including cranes and wreckers are being brought in to help clear the scene.
Emergency crews also remain on the scene of the accident trying to free people still trapped and help clear the area.
Interstate 94 is a major thoroughfare connecting Indiana and Chicago, Illinois. Following the accident, I-94 was closed in both dirextions, resulting in traffic being backed up for several miles.
LaPorte County, Indiana Coroner John Sullivan said the death toll could grow because cars are still under semis and haven't been searched.
The Indiana Department of Homeland Security travel advisory map indicates that both Lake and Porter County are under a travel advisory watch which means that conditions are threatening to the safety of the public.
According to Indiana DHS website, during a "watch" local travel advisory:
"only essential travel, such as to and from work or in emergency situations, is recommended, and emergency action plans should be implemented by businesses, schools, government agencies, and other organizations."
Indiana authorities also expressed concern over frigid temperatures in the area and said hypothermia could become a problem for those stuck at the scene.
The LaPorte County Sheriff's Department said school buses were brought to the area to keep motorists stranded on the interstate warm.
On January 5, officials in both Porter and Jasper Counties confirmed a state of emergency issued by the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. The Indiana DHS website travel advisory map displayed the highest level of local travel advisory, in which travel was restricted to emergency management workers only for most of Northwest Indiana, including Lake, Jasper and Porter Counties.
In anticipation of hazerdous winter weather conditions earlier this month, Indiana's Governor Mike Pence deployed 24 Indiana National Guard Highway Assistance Teams to aid state and local emergency crews with rescue operations.
While the weather "state of emergency" declared on earlier in January included the closure of Interstate 65 may have seemed extreme, the preventive measure may have prevented similar accidents.