BARNESVILLE, Minn. – The Minnesota State Patrol has identified two people who died in a four-vehicle crash in blizzard conditions around 11:30 a.m. Monday on Interstate 94 near Barnesville.
Judith A. Reid and Sean L. Ray, both 49 years old and from Minnetonka, died as a result of the crash, the patrol stated in a news release.
Sixteen-year-old Evan M. Ray of Minnetonka, who was a passenger in the Buick Park Avenue she was driving, was seriously injured and taken to Sanford Medical Center in Fargo.
The patrol said a semi was westbound in the left lane of I-94 while a Department of Transportation snowplow was clearing the right lane. The Buick driven by Reid tried to drive between the two large vehicles and hit both of them, the State Patrol said. A Dodge Ram hauling a trailer then hit the Buick.
The Buick was totaled and the Dodge was moderately damaged. The snowplow was severely damaged and “rendered inoperable,” the patrol said.
“It was definitely a mess,” Sgt. Jesse Grabow said.
Traffic was diverted into Barnesville as the westbound lanes of I-94 were closed for more than three hours.
The drivers of the semi, Leland Miller, 56, of Story City, Iowa, and the snowplow, Paul Bakken, 55, of Pelican Rapids, were uninjured, the patrol said.
The driver of the Dodge, Boyd Charles, 65, of Stoughton, Sask., suffered minor injuries. All three were wearing their seat belts, the patrol said.
Grabow said poor visibility was likely a factor.
“That’s the biggest problem,” he said. “People are coming in way too fast with limited visibility.”
In North Dakota, I-94 was closed for about five hours Monday due to a 10-vehicle pileup in a series of three crashes, including one in which a vehicle went around road closures to get on the interstate.
The crashes, which included five semis and a commercial truck hauling biohazard medical waste, occurred near the Spiritwood exit around 8:30 a.m., said North Dakota Highway Patrol Sgt. Josh Rude.
About two hours after the interstate was shut down, an eastbound vehicle from Illinois crashed into the back of a wrecked semi after the driver went around interstate barricades in Jamestown, Rude said.
Five people were taken by ambulance to the Jamestown Regional Medical Center, where they were treated and released for minor injuries. Their identities were not yet released late Monday.
By 5 p.m. Monday, troopers in west-central Minnesota had responded to seven rollovers and more than 80 vehicles in the ditch, Grabow said.
The North Dakota Highway Patrol reported that by 9 p.m., about 40 vehicles had slid off the road and 15 crashes occurred in the southeast region.
Rude said the pileup near Jamestown occurred when eastbound traffic began to slow and stop due to high winds blowing snow on the city roads. Rude said two vehicles intentionally drove into the south ditch to avoid the massive wreck.
Eastbound I-94 in North Dakota was shut down later Monday evening after a semi jackknifed about 16 miles west of Valley City.
Two jackknifed semis forced Highway 46 to close about 22 miles south of Jamestown for about two hours Monday afternoon. The semi drivers were not injured.
No travel advised
The state Department of Transportation advised no travel for most of Monday throughout a majority of the Red River Valley and central North Dakota.
Visibility in the city of Fargo was a quarter-mile early in the day, but improved to a half-mile by the afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.
Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist said he spent his day pulling cars from ditches and advising drivers to slow down, avoid cruise control and turn on their headlights during the blustery conditions.
“I actually stopped two students from NDSU doing 70 in a 65 on Highway 10,” Bergquist said. “I said (to them), ‘You might be mad at me because I’m going to yell at you.’ So I warned ’em.”
Bergquist said plows were pulled off the roads early Monday because they couldn’t keep up with the blowing and drifting snow. Thanks to poor visibility, Bergquist said even his own vehicle was rear-ended, although it was “nothing major.”
Authorities briefly closed eastbound I-94 from 34th Street in Moorhead to Exit 336 because of several crashes and vehicles in the ditch. No one was seriously injured, including a state trooper whose patrol car was struck while he was in it. The stretch of I-94 reopened shortly after 10 a.m.
Interstate 29 was closed from Grand Forks to the Canadian border at 9:35 a.m. after the DOT pulled snowplows off the roads in northeastern North Dakota. Only a day before, a deadly collision on Interstate 29 near Hillsboro claimed the life of Dennis Lee Johnson, 63, of Cedar, Minn. The Highway Patrol said Lee lost control of his car at 3 p.m. Sunday, struck the side of a semi and entered the median. Johnson was ejected from the vehicle and died.
The city of Grand Forks opened the Alerus Center as an emergency shelter for stranded motorists Monday evening.
On Monday, whiteout conditions blurred city roads and led to crashes on Fargo’s 19th Avenue North, including one injury-accident reported near the Hector International Airport runway. The city closed 19th Avenue from Dakota Drive to 18th Street early Monday morning.
The airport remained open throughout Monday, although many flights were either canceled or delayed, likely because of poor visibility, said Shawn Dobberstein, executive director of the Fargo Airport Authority.
“They need a half-mile to land and a quarter-mile to take off,” Dobberstein said, speaking of commercial carriers.
‘Raw’ weather ahead
The entirety of the Red River Valley was in a blizzard warning by midday Monday, with winter weather advisories in much of east-central North Dakota and northern Minnesota, according to the weather service.
A wind chill advisory remains in effect until noon today.
Baudette, Minn., reported the region’s highest snowfall total as of Monday evening, with 9.5 inches of new snow on the ground. Snowfall measured 4.2 inches in Grand Forks, 6 inches in Warroad, Minn., and 4.5 inches in Park River, N.D., and Greenbush, Minn.
Powerful north winds funneled light snowfall and ground snow down the Red River Valley, generating whiteout conditions in many areas, weather service meteorologist Jim Kaiser said.
Wind gusts peaked at 57 mph near East Grand Forks, Minn., and Buxton, N.D., and topped out at 49 mph at the Fargo airport.
Bitter cold weather will take hold today as the wind slowly subsides, finally dropping to below 10 mph this evening, Kaiser said. The morning hours are expected to bring dangerously cold wind chills, possibly as low as 40 below zero, and today’s high temperature will struggle to reach zero, he said.
“It’ll be raw,” he said.
The forecast called for clear, calm and cold conditions Wednesday morning, with lows of 15 to 20 below, Kaiser said.
This article was compiled by reportersErik Burgess, Mike Nowatzki and Wendy Reuer of Forum News Service.