Tanker hauling deicer topples on I-94 near Alexandria; traffic squeezed

  • Article by: SUSAN HOGAN and PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune staff writers
  • Updated: March 7, 2014 - 1:10 PM

Freezing rain in central and western Minnesota has caused dozens of vehicles to crash or spin out of control, and has kept State Patrol troopers busy all morning.

A tanker truck hauling a chemical that combats ice rolled over Friday in wintry western Minnesota, prompting authorities to restrict Interstate 94 traffic while the cargo is moved to an upright vehicle, authorities said.

That crash was just one of dozens spanning the width of the state through central and southern Minnesota, where various forms of precipitation coated the highway.

The tanker held all of its load -- airliner de-icer -- despite toppling along icy eastbound I-94, a mile or two west of the Evansville exit, according to the State Patrol.

The transfer of the contents from the pitched tanker to a replacement truck could stretch into the evening, keeping the right-hand lane closed for several more hours, said Patrol Sgt. Jesse Grabow.

“[It] will take some time,” Grabow said. “Should just be the one lane closed.”

Forecasters also posted a winter weather advisory for an area east of the Twin Cities into western Wisconsin. It was in that area where the most troublesome incident of the morning commute occurred, when a crash on I-94 coming in from Hudson, Wis., had two lanes blocked. That area is now back to normal.

The difficult driving conditions led several schools in those areas to open two hours late. Calling off classes altogether were the districts of Rocori, Eden Valley-Watkins, Holdingford, Kimball, Paynesville and Swanville.

There were at least 15 spinouts and crashes along I-94 in the hours leading up to sunrise from just east of St. Cloud to Alexandria, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). Another 10 or so similar traffic incidents were reported along state and county highways running parallel to that same stretch and just south of I-94, MnDOT also reported.

The State Patrol reported numerous vehicles in the ditch north of the metro on I-35 in Harris, Minn.

Even well after sunrise, another dozen or so crashes and spinouts littered I-94 from west of Alexandria to east of St. Cloud, MnDOT said.

In south-central Minnesota, a region still smarting from heavy snowfall earlier this week, blowing snow proved a hassle for overnight motorists.

Despite the morning drama, the weather will be mild much of the day in the Twin Cities before a cold front sweeps in overnight, causing temperatures to drop by around 11 degrees. Thermometers will hover in the 20s on Saturday but winds will make it feel much colder.

On Sunday, Minnesotans will finally get the springlike reprieve they’ve been waiting for just as clocks are set forward an hour for daylight saving time. Sunday’s high is expected to be 40 degrees, followed by 46 on Monday and 38 on Tuesday.

Star Tribune staff writer Tim Harlow contributed to this report. Susan Hogan • @StribNightOwl

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