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Multiple Factors Lead To Increase In Crashes Along Interstate 35

February 21, 2019 08:23 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- With February's record-setting snowfall continuing to climb, motorists across the region are finding themselves sliding around or ending up in the ditch on area roads. One stretch of interstate, though, has been particularly notorious this month for those trying to get around.

Running north and south through a flat, windy and wide open area, Interstate 35 between Albert Lea and Clarks Grove has seen dozens of crashes so far this month. At one point on February 12, nearly a dozen crashes were reported at the same time on the interstate in Freeborn County and the surrounding area.

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It's a problem Minnesota State Patrol Sgt. Troy Christianson said has been made worse by multiple snow events happening with little time in between for cleanup.

"What we're starting to see is a primary crash happen and then we're starting to have secondary and third crashes behind it," he said. "That's what we're seeing on I-35 this month is just multiple crashes in the same area."

Many of those crashes have involved semi trucks, which Christianson said may be due to drivers' unfamiliarity with the state and its trouble spots on the highways.

"We will have semis that are traveling from different parts of the United States come into Minnesota and they're not really familiar or they don't change their driving techniques for the state for the conditions of the road, and they're starting to jack-knife or crash and then we're just starting to have backups," he said.

Cindy Morgan, a public engagement coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, said the agency has taken a number of steps to address blowing snow, but the sheer amount of snow the region has seen in February has made some of those efforts less effective.

"It's very open and so a lot of blowing and drifting will happen across the roadway," Morgan said. "Some of the things [we've done] are things like living snow fences, those would be the cornrows that some of the farmers will agree to leave up and there's a partnership there, there are other times tree lines that have been planted in the past."

But with nearly two feet of snow on the ground and more on the way, even trees planted to block the winds aren't helping as much as they could.

"We can lay down any number of products, different kinds of chemicals, salt, sometimes sand, but because again it's a higher traffic volume area, those tires, the same ones that are causing the ice also tend to kick off that sand and salt," Morgan said.

Kasey Schaub, who lives near Clarks Grove and drives on Interstate 35 regularly, said a lot of what he's seen can be blamed on poor drivers.

"They're driving a lot faster than what the conditions do allow. [They] come up on snow, slick spots and they just go whatever speed they were traveling and they slide," Schaub said.

With conditions able to change quickly and with little notice, Sgt. Christianson said drivers need to be extra cautious especially when driving in whiteout conditions, citing a dozen crashes involving vehicles rear-ending snow plows since January 1.

An Uptick in Snow Plows Involved in Crashes

"It's harder for people to see, so it's important that people also turn their headlights on for visibility, but it's also important that they increase their following distance," Christianson said.

Click here to view the latest road conditions across southeastern Minnesota and north Iowa.

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