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Fatal Pileup Shuts Pennsylvania Interstate Amid Strong Winds

A pileup involving more than 50 cars shut down a Pennsylvania stretch of highway amid strong winds and poor visibility, authorities said. Forty people were taken to local hospitals and there were "multiple" fatalities, an official told NBC News.

The accident outside Harrisburg on Saturday morning closed all lanes on both sides of Interstate 78 in Lebanon County, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said.

Image: Emergency personnel work at the scene of a crash near Fredericksburg, Pa.
Emergency personnel work at the scene of a crash near Fredericksburg, Pa., on Feb. 13, 2016. State police say a pileup has closed Interstate 78 in central Pennsylvania. Daniel Zampogna / PennLive.com via AP

State police told NBC News "over 50" vehicles were involved in the jam-packed pileup.

Cory Angell, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, said there were multiple fatalities, along with more than 40 people transported to area hospitals. He did not say how many people had died.

Fatal Pileup Closes Pennsylvania Highway 0:40

A spokeswoman at Penn State Hershey Medical Center said 10 adult patients had been sent there, three of whom had critical injuries.

About 70 people took shelter at the Jonestown Fire Department, about eight miles away from the wreckage site on I-78. Most of the cars remained stuck there through Saturday afternoon, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management said.

Among those involved in the crash were members of the Penn State Lehigh Valley men's basketball team.

Image: Emergency personnel carry someone away from a crash scene near Fredericksburg, Pa.
Emergency personnel carry someone away from a crash scene near Fredericksburg, Pa., on Feb. 13, 2016. State police say a pileup has closed Interstate 78 in central Pennsylvania. Daniel Zampogna / PennLive.com via AP

The team was going to a game in New Kensington, Pennsylvania, when their charter bus was hit by a tractor trailer on I-78 in Lebanon County, the university said.

"There are no serious injuries to anyone who was on the bus. The team is on a warm, dry bus and they are en route to the nearest hospital as a precautionary measure," Penn State said on its website.

Winds of at least 30 mph were blowing at the time of the crash, according to The Weather Channel, and visibility was less than 2 miles.

Earlier Saturday, the National Weather Service issued several alerts about snow squalls in the Philadelphia area. Lebanon County is about 100 miles west of Philadelphia.

Ashley Fisher told NBC News that she was driving toward Allentown with her two daughters when they got caught in a snowstorm and were turned around by law enforcement.

"The snow just started and it was a total whiteout. The car in front of us just disappeared," she later said. "We were able to stop, but a couple cars slid and hit the shoulder."

Once the snow started to dissipate, she said, she noticed the entire westbound side was "just a mess."

Pennsylvania State Police said a detour had been put into place during the interstate's closing.