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2 deadly pileups close Ohio Turnpike; snow grounds flights

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    First responders check on occupants of a multi-vehicle accident in near white out conditions, blocks west bound I-70, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 west of Columbus, Ohio.

TOLEDO, Ohio » Blowing snow led to whiteout conditions across Ohio on Saturday, causing numerous accidents and pileups that shut down interstates.

At least three people were killed in separate afternoon accidents on the Ohio Turnpike and Interstate 71, while a wave of heavy snow limited visibility at the Columbus airport and forced all flights to be grounded for a few hours.

A pregnant woman died in a multivehicle pileup that closed the westbound lanes of the Ohio Turnpike just east of Sandusky, authorities said. Another crash on the turnpike about 30 miles east of the Indiana state line left one person dead. Ohio State Highway Patrol said a 24-year-old Buffalo, New York, man also was killed when the car he was riding in on I-71 in Morrow County hit a tractor-trailer and went off the road.

The turnpike was turning away all westbound traffic coming from the Cleveland and Akron areas all the way to the Indiana line — a 180-mile stretch of the toll road. The turnpike also issued a travel ban for large commercial vehicles and passenger cars pulling trailers.

About 20 vehicles were involved in a pileup on Interstate 70 west of Columbus, the State Highway Patrol said. It was one of several accidents that closed the highway in both directions.

"This road is like a skating rink," said Greg Olinger, of Dayton, whose truck jack-knifed after he swerved to avoid the wreckage in front of him. "I couldn’t see anything. It was a whiteout."

Another truck driver, Arthur Barnett of Columbus, saw the accident unfold right in front of him.

"What he did definitely saved a lot of lives by him going off the road," said Barnett, whose truck was hit and shoved off the road by several cars behind him.

At least five counties in the northwestern corner of the state were telling all drivers except emergency workers to stay off the roads during the early part of the afternoon.

Accidents on interstates in the Cleveland and Akron areas also forced several roadways to be closed.

Associated Press photographer Alex Brandon in West Jefferson, Ohio, contributed to this report.

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