Almost 700 MN crashes as snow, wind, cold create driving havoc

Snow-covered roads
Snow-covered roads slowed the evening commute along Interstate 94 near downtown Minneapolis Thursday, Jan. 8. 2015.
Jennifer Simonson / MPR News

Updated 8:50 p.m. | Posted 3:02 p.m.

Blowing snow and icy conditions jammed highways across the Twin Cities metro area and around the state Thursday, creating havoc with the evening commute.

The Minnesota State Patrol reported 654 crashes, including 11 jackknifed semitrailers, between 8 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. There were 87 injuries, though none were serious, the patrol said.

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Many of those crashes came during the afternoon commute across the Twin Cities. The Minnesota Department of Transporation's traffic monitor was jammed with yellow crash icons.

At about 2:30 p.m. MnDOT posted some 20 accident reports within 10 minutes on its Twin Cities Twitter traffic feed. A similar blast of crash reports came at 4 p.m. MnDOT continues to warn that many of the main metro roads are covered with snow and slush.

Metro Transit reported that only about half its buses were running on time as of 4:30 p.m., with average delays of 7.5 minutes. Light rail was on schedule.

Other reports:

• Interstate 35E southbound at County Road 96 north of St. Paul was at a bumper-to-bumper crawl most of the afternoon. MnDOT cameras earlier showed many cars in the ditch and traffic at a standstill.

• Highway 212 at the Highway 5 split had been closed in both directions for several hours due to multiple crashes; it's since reopened.

• At 4:15 p.m., MnDOT reported eight crashes on Interstate 35 from south of the Twin Cities to Owatonna.

• At 3:45 p.m., Minneapolis police reported officers were out on a dozen car accidents.

Road disappears
The road disappears under a sport utility vehicle as high winds and blowing snow combine to degrade visibility Thursday afternoon, Jan. 8, 2015, in Spring, Minn.
Kimm Anderson / St. Cloud Times via AP

Officials have already warned against traveling in northwest Minnesota and across southern Minnesota from South Dakota to Wisconsin because of difficult driving conditions with blowing snow and reduced visibility.

At 3 p.m., MnDOT said state highways in six southwest Minnesota counties were closing immediately, though I-90 remained open for now.

Authorities are urging drivers to use extra caution behind the wheel, and to not get out if they get in a crash.

If your car slides off the road, there's a good chance other drivers will lose control as well, said State Patrol spokeswoman Lt. Tiffani Nielson, who spoke after a report of a pedestrian struck on Interstate 35E north of St. Paul this afternoon.

A Forest Lake man whose car went into a ditch was hit as he walked away. A Toyota Camry lost control on icy southbound 35E near County Road 96 and struck 57-year-old David Walden. The State Patrol said Walden was not seriously injured.

The patrol also reported that three squads — in Virgina, Brooklyn Center and Marshall — were hit. Two of the squads were unoccupied. The third was rear-ended in a chain reaction accident in Lyon County with a pickup and a car. No one was seriously injured.

Winter driving advice from the Minnesota State Patrol

MPR News reporter Tim Nelson contributed to this report.