December 1, 2020

30vehicle

A midmorning snow squall Thursday spawned a 30-vehicle pileup on westbound Interstate 94 near Monticello that included 15 semitrailer trucks and at least one that burst into flames.

Heavy black smoke billowed into the air for hours after the crash near milepost 194, the exit for County Road 39, forcing authorities to shut down the westbound I-94 lanes just after 9 a.m.

The eastbound lanes were closed later to allow room for crews to extinguish fires that had spread from a truck carrying tractor tires to nearby vehicles. The eastbound lanes reopened just after 1 p.m., but the westbound lanes remained closed, said Sgt. Jesse Grabow with the State Patrol.

It was not immediately clear how long the westbound lanes would remain closed. The Minnesota Department of Transportation warned drivers at 1:30 p.m. to use a detour and said the freeway might not reopen for four hours.

The driver in the burning semitrailer truck was all right, Grabow said in a tweet. There was no immediate word of any other injuries.

Images from MnDOT traffic management cameras showed dozens of mangled vehicles with some pinned up against a concrete median. Some of semitrailer trucks had their sides ripped off exposing their contents while others straddled both westbound lanes.

Another semitrailer truck had jackknifed near Wright County Road 19, and the State Patrol said it was responding to multiple crashes in the area Thursday morning.

The mishaps resulted from a rare snow squall that passed through Wright County and into northwest Hennepin County. Motorists were advised to avoid or delay travel until the squall passed, the National Weather Service said.

Squalls are periods of moderate to heavy snow accompanied by gusty winds that can result in whiteout conditions, the weather service said.

Moreover, the weather service said, “Falling temperatures can cause dangerous impacts to surface transportation.”

The quick moving burst dropped 2.5 inches of snow in Buffalo, about 10 miles south of Monticello. Other totals included 1.6 inches in Mounds View, 1.4 inches in Bloomington, 1.3 inches in Chanhassen and eight-tenths of an inch in Minneapolis, the weather service said.

 

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