Dashcam footage captures deadly pileup in whiteout conditions

Mark Puleo
·5 min read

Wintry weather made a brutal return to a large swath of the United States this week, bringingsome cases of record cold and snow. In Wisconsin, heavy snow and near whiteout conditions caused a deadly highway pileup Wednesday that was caught on a dashcam camera.

The deadly crash on Interstate 41 was part of a disastrous day of driving in snowy Wisconsin. All told, there more than 20 crashes throughout the state involving more than 80 vehicles and one fatality.

On I-41 in Washington County, about 30 miles northwest of Milwaukee, nearly 50 vehicles were involved in a single pileup, which officials said claimed the life of a 37-year-old woman and sent multiple other motorists to the hospital.

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Footage from a vehicle dashcam captured the impossible driving conditions and some of the pileup's devastation, including the collision of a semi-truck and a snowplow. The video showed the moment the truck slammed into the plow, sending the snowplow toppling over on the highway's right shoulder and the trashed semi careening off the left side.

The driver with the dashcam, identified as William Van Aacken, shared his horrifying recollection and video with WISN.

"Visibility cut and then all the sudden I was seeing the semi in front of me and then you could see stuff in the ditch on the left and the ditch on the right and then just the unfolding of the semi hitting the dump truck in front of me," he said.

According to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Bill Deger, "The arrival of an unseasonably cold mass, coupled with some energy in the atmosphere, is what sparked these late-season snow showers and squalls."

Dispatchers received emergency calls from motorists on the interstate early Wednesday afternoon for the major pileup. Heavy snow and freezing conditions were reported in the town of Polk, where the crash occurred.

At the scene, Wisconsin State Patrol officers transported six injured individuals to hospitals for medical attention and confirmed the death of a 37-year-old woman.

The woman, from Trenton, Tennessee, died from injuries sustained in one of the crashes, the state patrol said in a statement. I-40 was forced to close in both directions for more than nine hours due to the conditions and devastation.

In the wake of the accidents and shutdowns, a total of 38 vehicles were damaged and more than 50 motorists were left stranded. Officials resorted to using a bus service to shuttle the shaken drivers to safety.

Prior to the calls made for the deadly pileup in Polk, emergency calls were placed for multi-vehicle crashes near the town of Wayne just 15 minutes prior.

"Near whiteout snow conditions will likely be a contributing factor in the investigations," the Washington County, Wisconsin, Sherrif's Office said in a Facebook post.

In the neighboring Dodge County, 3.5 inches of snow were reported by the National Weather Service (NWS) Wednesday, with temperatures staying below freezing through the entire day. At the nearby West Bend Municipal Airport, reported visibility was most severely reduced in the late morning.

Elsewhere in the country, the cold and snow was plenty disruptive and even delivered a record chill to several places across the Heartland.

Colorado Rockies first baseman C.J. Cron stands in the cold and snow while manning his position in the ninth inning of the team's baseball game against the Houston Astros on Wednesday, April 21, 2021, in Denver. The Rockies won 6-3. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

In Denver, the high temperature topped out at 32 degrees, well below the 66-degree average high for April 21 in the Mile High City. More snow also fell there.

Denver International Airport recorded another two inches of snow on Wednesday, pushing the seasonal total to 79.6 inches, eclipsing the 1991-1992 seasonal snow total of 79 inches and making 2020-2021 season the snowiest in the city since the 1983-1984 season when Denver tallied 80.9 inches, according to NWS records.

The snow even interfered with the Major League Baseball game between the Colorado Rockies and the Houston Astros at Coors Field in Denver on Wednesday. The teams were seen on video playing through a steady snowfall, and some solid defensive plays were made despite the wintry conditions. The Rockies prevailed 6-3.

The few fans who braved the brutal conditions were heavily bundled up, news photos showed.

As the weather system spread eastward, it brought record cold for the date to many locations across the nation's midsection.

The low temperature in Oklahoma City plunged to 29 degrees Wednesday, shattering the previous record for the day of 34 degrees, which had been reached three times previously - in 1893, 1927 and 1966.

In Texas, Dallas saw the temperature bottom out at 35, easily breaking the previous record of 39 degrees for the date that had stood since 1918. Farther south in Texas, the mercury plummeted to 37 in Waco, annihilating the 43-degree record for the date that had stood for 111 years.

No one, it seems, was spared the bone-chilling temperatures. Little Rock, Arkansas, also saw an old record for April 21 come tumbling down with the tumbling temps. The low of 35 broke the previous record of 39, which had been hit in 1936, 1953 and 1983.

To the north and east, more snowfall records fell. In Buffalo, 3.1 inches of snow was measured on Wednesday, breaking the old record for the day of 1.3 inches that fell in 1934, according to the NWS. Not far away in Rochester, another snow record fell. The NWS reported that 2.8 inches of accumulation was measured, breaking the record of 1.5 inches for the date, which had stood since 1978.

And AccuWeather forecasters warn that the uncomfortably cold temperatures are set to linger a little while longer across a wide stretch of the nation. Millions in and around urban areas from Kansas City to Chicago, down to Atlanta and up and down the I-95 corridor are expected to remain under frost and freeze threats through Friday morning and will see temperatures anywhere from 10 to 20 degrees below normal for this time of year.

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