Pileup on I-94 west of Fargo sends 6 to hospital
A number of North Dakota counties, including Cass County, are under a no-travel advisory, which means motorists should not travel due to dangerous road conditions.
CASSELTON, N.D. — At least six people were taken to the hospital following a multi-vehicle crash Monday morning, Feb. 21, near Casselton, according to the North Dakota Highway Patrol.
Highway Patrol Lt. Troy Hischer said at about 1:50 p.m. Monday that crews were still working to remove vehicles from the westbound lanes of the interstate, adding that more than a dozen vehicles were involved.
The NDHP said one of the six people injured sustained serious, but non-life threatening, injuries.
"We are still on scene of today's crash near Casselton. It will be days before we know everyone that was involved and piece this together," Hischer said.
According to a statement released by the Highway Patrol Monday night, the crash that occurred west of Mapleton involved six semi-trucks and eight passenger vehicles.
It began in near zero visibility conditions when a rear-end style collision occurred between a passenger vehicle and a semi-truck and those vehicles blocked both westbound lanes of I-94.
Other drivers failed to see the stopped vehicles due to poor visibility and additional vehicles collided, creating a pile up of vehicles.
Six motorists were taken to Sanford Medical Center in Fargo, including a 69-year-old woman from Casselton, who suffered serious but non-life threatening injuries.
The westbound lanes of I-94 were closed for about five hours and the crash remains under investigation, the Highway Patrol said.
A safety alert issued over cellphones warned the public of the crash at about 10:30 a.m. Monday.
Emergency crews are currently working a multi-vehicle crash involving multiple injuries on I-94 westbound near Casselton. Westbound traffic has been diverted around Mapleton. No travel is advised. #NDHP246 ^TrpIrvis-SE pic.twitter.com/pjH0K5v9hn— North Dakota Highway Patrol (@NDHighwayPatrol) February 21, 2022
Ultimately, I-94 was closed from Jamestown to Fargo and Interstate 29 was closed from Fargo to the South Dakota border late Monday afternoon. Also, Highway 13 was closed from I-29 to Wahpeton.
Winds were consistently blowing from 20-30 mph Monday afternoon, according to WDAY meteorologist Jesse Ritka. That wind, combined with low temperatures, made conditions ripe for blowing snow and low visibility.
Hischer said the crash near Casselton was likely caused by vehicles slowing or stopping because of low visibility and then getting hit from behind by other vehicles in a chain-reaction type event.
Cass County Sheriff Jesse Jahner said visibility on roadways Monday afternoon was between 20-30 feet and zero. He said it was getting very difficult to tell where roadways ended and ditches began.
He added that snowdrifts were starting to form across roadways that were nearly invisible to drivers, creating a hazard that would only get worse with more snow.
Video clips published on Monday by the YouTube channel StormChasingVideo showed Casselton firefighters and Cass County emergency workers attempting to remove a pinned victim by cutting a truck's entire top off in severe conditions that included a minus 30 windchill.
A number of North Dakota counties, including Cass County, were under a no-travel advisory for much of Monday, which meant motorists should not travel due to dangerous road conditions.
A winter storm warning was in place for the southern Red River Valley until noon Tuesday and a blizzard warning was in place until 9 p.m. Monday for Cass and Barnes counties in North Dakota and Clay County in Minnesota.
Monday's interstate pileup was not the first of the winter.
A crash on Friday morning, Feb. 18, on I-94 near Valley City involved 14 vehicles amid a ground blizzard. One motorist was seriously injured and three suffered minor injuries.
Reporter Robin Huebner contributed to this report.