2 dead in snowy, 40-vehicle highway crash in Md.

MYERSVILLE, Md. (AP) -- A pileup of 35 cars and five tractor-trailers on a snowy Maryland highway killed two people Monday and seriously injured at least a dozen, state police said.

Seventy-one people, including infants and the elderly, were taken to a Red Cross shelter in Washington County, said Julie Barr-Strasburg, executive director of the county's Red Cross chapter. The 12 seriously injured were taken to Washington County Hospital, State Police spokeswoman Elena Russo said.

The pileup happened about 12:30 p.m. on Interstate 70 near South Mountain in northwestern Maryland. An inch-and-a-half of snow quickly fell around the same time and Russo says a preliminary investigation found the snow was at least partly to blame for the crash.

Most of the people taken to the shelter suffered from "bumps and bruises" and were receiving first aid, Barr-Strasburg said. One person did go to the hospital because of chest discomfort from an air bag.

Red Cross workers were handing out blankets, cots, food, hot water and coffee, and state police were interviewing people about the accident, Barr-Strasburg said. While about six people were able to leave because they lived nearby, others were waiting to retrieve their vehicles from the pileup, she said. Red Cross workers were preparing to keep the shelter open until at least midnight, she said.

"We are in close contact with emergency management and we are hearing that it will be quite some time before the road is open," she said late Monday afternoon.

The westbound lanes of the highway will likely be closed at least through rush hour as crews clean up.

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