A 61-vehicle accident closed the westbound lanes of Hwy. 55 over the Mendota Bridge for nearly two hours Monday afternoon.

The massive pile-up occurred in early afternoon amid snowy, icy conditions.

The chain reaction began when two vehicles lost control and crashed, according to State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske.

 “A semi then jackknifed and crashed into them, blocking all lanes,” he said

Next came vehicles by the dozens behind the semi “crashing into each other,” leaving a tangled, mangle mass of vehicles littering the highway, Roeske added.

Roeske said the final tally was 61 vehicles involved. One person was hospitalized, and that was for minor injuries, he added. Damage to the vehicles behind the semi was considered minor.

The crash occurred about 12:50 p.m.  "It's a mess," a spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation's Regional Traffic Management Center said.

The lanes opened shortly before 2:45 p.m.

The highway was closed at the intersection of Hwy. 55 and 110 in Mendota Heights.  Eastbound lanes remained open.

Dispatcher Don Zenanko said it's treacherous in the area.

"People need to remember how to drive in winter," he said.

Just enough snow has fallen to gum of metro area highways and freeways and create occasional slippery spots, especially on and under bridge decks

MnDOT spokesman Kent Barnard said plows are out. He also cautioned motorists to drive with care.

At 1:25 p.m., four other accidents were tying up traffic. MnDOT reported crashes in the following locations:

Northbound Hwy. 169 at Old Shakopee Road

Eastbound I-94 has two lanes blocked at John Ireland Blvd in downtown St. Paul.  One lane was blocked on eastbound 94 at Cretin with a separate crash.

Southbound 35E also was dealing with a crash blocking one lane at Kellogg Blvd.

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