Blizzard sending truckers off course in Midwest

Accident on I-94 near St. Cloud, Minnesota during a blizzard on April 11, 2019. (Photo: Sergeant Jesse Grabow/Minnesota State Patrol)

It’s hard enough to drive safely on snowy, icy roads, but add winds that have the potential to knock over a tractor-trailer and you have a dangerous mess on your hands. This is what happened to several truckers in the upper Midwest on Thursday during a massive blizzard that spanned more than 500 miles, from Nebraska and the Dakotas all the way to Minnesota.

 Tractor-trailer wreck on I-94 in Minnesota during a major snowstorm on Thursday, April 11, 2019.
Tractor-trailer wreck on I-94 in Minnesota during a major snowstorm on Thursday, April 11, 2019.

A combination of snow, sleet and freezing rain coated roads with a layer of sinister slickness that sent some drivers into medians and shoulders, while others got turned around and stretched across all lanes of traffic. Most of the accidents were on I-94 in central and southern Minnesota, based on reports from Minnesota State Patrol officers, with some on I-35, too. The Minnesota Department of Transportation was busy reporting spinouts and crashes that also led to closures on numerous U.S., state and local roads, but they didn’t all involve tractor-trailers.

Sergeant Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol tweeted several photos of trucks whose drivers lost control. He said “Troopers are responding to more jackknifed semis than I can remember – most of which the trailers are empty or light loads. With the wind and road conditions it’s not going well so please use some good discretion.” He added the hashtag “#DriveSmart.” Thankfully, Grabow reported no deaths or major injuries from these accidents.

Fewer wrecks were reported across South Dakota, which also got slammed by the blizzard on Thursday. But there’s a good reason for this – the Interstates were closed! According to the South Dakota Department of Transportation, I-90 was shut down yesterday, and remains closed as of this morning (Friday, April 12) across nearly the entire length of the state, from Rapid City to Sioux Falls, a distance of 325 miles. Also, I-29 remains closed from Sioux Falls to the North Dakota border, a stretch of around 150 miles. Accidents occurred mainly on U.S. and state routes.

 Tractor-trailer wreck on US-81 in South Dakota during a major snowstorm on Thursday, April 11, 2019.
Tractor-trailer wreck on US-81 in South Dakota during a major snowstorm on Thursday, April 11, 2019.

The blizzard is winding down today and will be centered over southern Ontario, Canada by this evening. Before leaving the U.S., the storm will drop just a few more inches of snow today across eastern portions of the Dakotas, central and northern Minnesota, as well as far northern Wisconsin. Winds will weaken significantly, gusting at 35 to 45 mph as opposed to 50 to 60 mph, but blowing snow and limited visibility will still make it difficult to safely haul loads. Carriers – keep your drivers away from this region through the weekend, if possible, until roads are in better shape.

Have a safe weekend, and please be careful out there!

Show More

Nick Austin, Director of Weather Analytics and Senior Meteorologist

In his 17 years of weather forecasting experience, Nick worked on air at WBBJ-TV and WRCB-TV, including time spent doing weather analysis and field reporting. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from Georgia Institute of Technology. Nick is also a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” for eight consecutive years. Nick earned his National Weather Association Broadcasting Seal in 2005.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *