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Connor Flaat works to free his vehicle after white-out conditions caused him to drive into a snow barricade Monday at the intersection of 19th Avenue North and Dakota Drive in Fargo. The city had closed 19th Avenue between Dakota Drive and 18th Street due to the white out caused by blowing and drifting snow. Michael Vosburg/Forum News Service

Two dead in I-94 crash near Barnesville as blowing snow wreaks havoc on roads

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BARNESVILLE, Minn. - The Minnesota State Patrol is investigating a four-vehicle accident on Interstate 94 near here that has killed at least two people.

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Sgt. Jesse Grabow said the accident took place around 11:30 a.m. and that both westbound I-94 lanes are closed as accident cleanup continues. It's unclear how many people were involved in the incident, but Grabow said two people died and another was seriously injured.

The trooper said poor visibility was likely a factor.

"That's the biggest problem," he said. "People are coming in way too fast with limited visibility."

The identities of those involved have not yet been released. Grabow said no commercial vehicles were involved, but one vehicle was a pickup truck pulling a trailer.

Interstate traffic is being redirected at Exit 22 and can get back on I-94 west of Barnesville, Grabow said.

A no-travel advisory has been extended to the Fargo area as blowing snow and icy roads are creating hazardous travel conditions today, prompting Fargo to close a stretch of 19th Avenue North and Clay County and the North Dakota Department of Transportation to pull snowplows off the roads.

The DOT closed I-94 between Valley City and Jamestown shortly before 9:30 a.m. so crews could clean up the scene of a pileup accident reported east of Jamestown about an hour earlier. There were no immediate reports of serious injuries, dispatchers said. The westbound lanes reopened at 1:30 p.m., but the eastbound lanes remained temporarily closed.

Authorities also 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 with him in it, and 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 Depart-ment of Transportation pulled snowplows off the roads in northeastern North Dakota.

Whiteout conditions led to traffic 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 at about 8:40 a.m., and it will likely remain closed into the night, ac-cording to a news release. Dakota Drive will remain open for those traveling to the airport.

The National Weather Service added Cass and Clay counties to a blizzard warning in effect until 6 p.m. today. The warning now covers all of northeastern and east-central North Dakota and bordering counties in Minnesota.

A no-travel advisory remains in effect for Fargo, Grand Forks and surrounding areas, including the cities of Casselton, Mayville, Hillsboro, Michigan, Drayton, Cavalier and Pembina, because of blowing snow causing zero visibility. Jamestown and Valley City and surrounding areas were added to the advisory at 1 p.m.

The wind speed in Fargo at 1:20 p.m. was 33 mph with a gust of 45 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist said plows were pulled off the roads because they couldn't keep up with the blowing and drifting snow. He said they may try to go out again this afternoon before people get off work, but that will depend on conditions.

Two to 10 inches of snowfall is expected from northeastern North Dakota into northwestern Minnesota, the weather service said.

The heaviest snowfall, 5 to 10 inches, will occur closer to the international border, while 2 to 5 inches is expected along and north of U.S. Highway 2, the weather service said. Lighter snow will fall to the south, with less than an inch in the forecast.

North to northwest winds will increase to 30 to 40 mph, with higher gusts over the Red River Valley creating blizzard conditions in areas with fresh snowfall, the weather service said.

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