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Crashes on icy roads prompt officials to shut down stretch of I-94 in Clay County

Traffic backed up at Mile Marker 15 near Barnesville

BARNESVILLE, Minn. - Icy roads created hazardous driving conditions around the Fargo-Moorhead area this morning, with several crashes involving semitrailers forcing officials to shut down both directions of Interstate 94 near Barnesville.

"Just a real narrow band of freezing rain came through the area, and it froze fast," Minnesota State Patrol Sgt. Jesse Grabow said.

At least four semis were blocking both directions of traffic on I-94. Westbound traffic was being diverted to Clay County Road 9 at the Barnesville exit and eastbound traffic was being diverted at the Downer exit, Grabow said.

Several semis jackknifed and two collided, but no serious injuries were reported, he said. Other vehicles also slid off the road into the ditch between Moorhead and Barnesville, he said.

"We've probably got about 100-plus people trapped right here until we can get things opened up," he said.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation issued a statement warning of icy roads in Clay County and said motorists may encounter brief lane closures where crashes have occurred.

In North Dakota, more than 20 crashes were reported in and around the Fargo and West Fargo areas, including 15 crashes on a stretch of I-29 extending about eight miles south of Fargo's 32nd Avenue South, state Highway Patrol Capt. Bryan Niewind said. A West Fargo police squad car that got rear-ended was among those involved in the crashes, he said.

Only minor injuries had been reported so far, Niewind said, noting it was still raining south of Fargo at about 9:30 a.m.

Many more people slid off the road, but oftentimes they were able to drive out of the snow-free ditches, he said.

Drivers approaching the metro area on dry roads were hitting the hard-to-see icy patches at speeds too fast for conditions, Niewind said, advising drivers to "just slow down."

"You can never predict this time of year, with the temperatures and different weather we have, whether the road's going to be icy," he said.