More than 30 cars pile up on icy I-35 in Duluth
DULUTH -- At least 30 vehicles were involved in a crash in a tunnel on Interstate 35 in downtown Duluth on Thursday morning after a quick-moving storm system dropped several inches of snow and made roads slippery.
Emergency crews methodically went through vehicles in the southbound tunnel below the Pickwick restaurant and treated people for injuries after the pileup, which occurred before 11 a.m. Several people were placed into ambulances. Tow trucks slowly removed vehicles as the interstate remained closed through the lunch hour.
The lanes reopened at 1:30 p.m., about three hours after the first crash. Lt. Eric Roeske, a public information officer for the Minnesota State Patrol, said there were not any serious injuries or fatalities. However, the Patrol had no further details on the crash — including the exact number of vehicles involved — as of Thursday evening.
The crash occurred as the morning snow that snarled commuter traffic abated.
In the aftermath, Allie Machacek was talking to responders in the front of the crash area. She was beside herself, telling the News Tribune that it’s the second accident she’s been in in the past two winters because of snowy conditions.
Machacek said she had been trying to move over to the left as a police car had stopped behind a single vehicle stalled in the tunnel. Her car slid and stalled and eventually was hit by a van.
She said that after the pileup she saw at least seven cars around her and 20 more behind her. She said many of those injured were hurt by airbags deploying.
April Guy found herself narrowly avoiding a crash in the back of the pileup. She credits new tires for stopping her car just feet away from the next vehicle. She said she had to wait about 45 minutes before she was allowed to turn around and reverse course to get off the interstate.
Haley Templin and Adam Vik were trying to leave town for a wedding five hours away when they were caught up in the middle of the accident.
Templin, a passenger in their car, said traffic was going slow but steady just before the accident site, but once Vik noticed that traffic was stopped, it was too late — the road was iced over.
“There was no slowing,” Templin said. The car ahead of them spun and they hit it head-on. She said she was told by an emergency responder that more than 30 cars were involved. Responders attempting to reach cars on foot had a hard time keeping their footing on the icy roadway, Templin said.
Vik and Templin were not hurt, and after waiting two hours to get their car towed, they fetched their other car and left town.
Templin said one woman she saw had a cut on her face from an airbag deployment.
Tough traveling elsewhere
The clipper system that moved across the Northland on Thursday dropped more than half a foot of snow in some areas, including 7.1 inches at Holyoke and 7 inches in Lakewood Township.
The Duluth airport reported 5.6 inches through Thursday evening, a record for the date; the previous record was 3.3 inches. Duluth has received 61.8 inches of snow this season, just slightly above the average of 58.5 inches.
Before the pileup, the snow caused headaches for drivers across the region — especially those trying to scale hills in Duluth.
At about 8:30 a.m. traffic heading up Mesaba Avenue was nearly at a standstill, with numerous cars unable to gain traction on the hill; drivers weaved very slowly around the stalled cars. Other trouble spots included Piedmont Avenue and 21st Avenue East.
The Minnesota and Wisconsin departments of transportation reported difficult driving conditions across much of the Northland throughout the day Thursday. Temperatures were forecast to plummet well below zero overnight into this morning, with partly cloudy skies and highs in the teens above zero today.
A warm-up is in the forecast for next week, with highs possibly reaching the 30s by Monday and Tuesday.