By Serena Maria Daniels
DETROIT (Reuters) - A hazardous materials trailer caught fire and fireworks exploded in another fiery truck on Friday, as a massive fatal pileup of 150 vehicles in icy conditions shut down a major interstate in southern Michigan.
At least one person died, 10 were injured and six cars and semi-trailers caught fire in the pile-up about 10 miles east of Kalamazoo, Michigan State Police spokesman Lt. Rick Pazder told Reuters.
Police briefly evacuated the area near the crash as formic acid burned in one of the trailers, Pazder said. The evacuation order was lifted when the formic acid burned off, he said.
Icy conditions and low visibility contributed to the crash at about 10 a.m. on Interstate 94. Pazder said the highway, which connects the Great Lakes with the central United States, could remain closed in both directions for many more hours as dozens of vehicles are moved.
Fireworks in one of the trucks exploded at the scene, he said.
"There is one fatality so far and we hope it stays at that. As we get to clearing vehicles there is potential there could be additional fatalities," Pazder said.
It was the most severe incident so far in three days of bitter cold and snow that have gripped the U.S. Midwest and the East Coast as a mass of Arctic air has moved in, causing snowflakes as far south as Florida.
Bitter cold temperatures, below average even for this part of winter, are expected to linger through the weekend, the National Weather Service said.
None of the injured were in serious condition, said a spokeswoman for two area hospitals that took in people from the crash.
COLD TO CONTINUE
Stormy weather shut highways in many Eastern and Midwestern states, from Western New York to Iowa on Friday. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo warned that the stormy weather would worsen again in the afternoon and some roads would remain closed for safety.
The National Weather Service said cold temperatures would prevail east of the Rockies through the weekend, with icing likely from Texas to the Ozarks and into sections of Illinois.
Many Midwestern schools and outdoor recreation areas were shut on Wednesday and Thursday because of the danger of frostbite. Students were back in school on Friday in Chicago, the country's third biggest school district with 400,000 students.
Ski and snowboarding areas were beginning to reopen as well.
In South Dakota the city of Sioux Falls' Great Bear Recreation Park, a ski, tubing and boarding area in the hills on the city's east side, reopened on Friday as temperatures rose to 6 degrees Fahrenheit.
Dan Grider, general manager of the park, said the wind chill in the environment, plus the skier-made wind chill can add up to dangerous conditions.
"Going 20 mph into a wind, it's really cold," he said, adding that the area had been closed earlier in the week because of staff safety considerations.
(Additional reporting by Todd Epp in Sioux Falls; Writing by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Bill Trott, Diane Craft and David Gregorio)