Recap: Crashes prompt freeway shutdown

Published 9:37am Friday, February 14, 2014

GENEVA — The Minnesota Department of Transportation shut down both lanes of Interstate 35 on Thursday near the border for Freeborn and Steele counties.

Four jackknifed semitrailers and numerous crashed motor vehicles blocked the highway in the afternoon. A notice of the closing was sent to media at 1:30 p.m.

Northbound traffic was detoured to exit at Geneva heading east on Freeborn County Road 35, north on Freeborn County Road 45 becoming Steele County Road 45, then west on Minnesota Highway 30 to the Ellendale interchange. Southbound traffic followed the same route in reverse.

MnDOT listed the driving conditions in the region Thursday as difficult or hazardous because of reduced visibility, drifting and icy conditions. The department advised against unnecessary travel.

The freeway reopened around 3:30 p.m.

The police scanner was filled with reports of crashes and spinouts on I-35 Thursday afternoon, ranging from the Iowa border up to the detour.

At least two people were reportedly injured at 8:09 p.m. after a passenger van rolled over on Interstate 35 two miles south of the Clarks Grove exit. No other information was available as of press time.

Two people were also injured after a T-bone collision at the intersection of 770th Avenue and 255th Street at 3:25 p.m. Thursday.

Preliminary reports indicate Ashlee Dawn Haler, 24, of Freeborn was driving eastbound on 255th Street in a 1995 Dodge Dakota when she failed to yield to a Honda CRV headed northbound on 770th Avenue, driven by James Allen Pierick, 63, of Clarks Grove.

The vehicles came to rest in the northeast ditch.

Both people were transported to the hospital.

MN511.org — a website showing traffic conditions — showed motorists still were having problems this morning on Interstate 35. At 7 a.m., it showed a stalled vehicle near Albert Lea, a vehicle spun out a mile south of Clarks Grove and a crash near the Clarks Grove exit.

Strong wind gusts were reported throughout the region in the afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.

A weather spotter near Twin Lakes recorded a wind gust of 46 mph. The Mankato Regional Airport notched 45 mph. Fairmont Municipal Airport recorded a gust of 40 mph, Owatonna 39 mph, Waseca 38, Faribault 36, Lakeville 35, Albert Lea 33.

The top wind gust in the state, 49 mph, was noted in two places: the Morris Airport and by a weather spotter near Marietta.

Albert Lea welcomes people the Big Freeze, a winter festival at Edgewater Park, on Saturday. The National Weather Service says Albert Lea can expect a high near 23 degrees, new snow of 2 to 4 inches, a south wind of 10 to 15 mph in the afternoon, and a wind chill factor that could dip to 17 below zero.