4 worst winter car pile-ups in recent Minnesota history

Crashes resulting from weather-related incidents account for many deaths in the U.S., far beyond those associated with tornadoes or hurricanes, according to transportation officials.

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The scene on Interstate 94 near Monticello, Minnesota, where a crash involving dozens of vehicles on Nov. 12, 2020, closed the interstate.
(Courtesy / Minnesota State Patrol)
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A white Christmas looks dreamy in the movies, but the reality of winter for those living in the midst of the snow globe comes with danger on the roads.

Crashes resulting from weather-related incidents account for many deaths in the U.S., with numbers reaching far higher than fatalities associated with tornadoes or hurricanes, according to the Department of Transportation.

Minnesotans know that traveling anywhere in the state during a snowstorm is risky, yet there are certain stretches of highways and interstates that pose an extra challenge — and those challenges change depending on the area of the state.

From the steep hills of the north to the prairie winds of the south, there’s plenty to consider before hitting the roads.

Here are a few recent devastating vehicle crashes that occurred in the state, serving as reminders to winter motorists that taking caution on northern roads is essential for safety.


2021 Christmas Day, near Ashby: 70 vehicles

Christmas is already a tough travel day, yet for those hitting the northern portion of Interstate 94 in 2021, it was a blatant nightmare.

At around 11 a.m., with winds blowing and snow falling, vehicles were unable to see what they were driving into — before it was too late.

Driving conditions caused two vehicles to crash , creating a blockade on the roadway. As more travelers made their way to the scene, vehicles began crashing into one another. In all, roughly forty vehicles were damaged. Another thirty vehicles slid into the ditch.

The crash resulted in a brief closure of the I-94, leaving plenty unable to make it to their destination.

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Traffic was rerouted after a traffic pile-up on I-94 near Ashby on Christmas Day on Saturday. Lanes reopened at about 2:30 p.m.

November 2020, near Monticello: 15 semi-trucks, 29 other vehicles

A November car crash on Interstate 94 near Monticello made international headlines in 2020 after 15 semi-trucks collided with 29 other vehicles, creating a chaotic scene of smoke, fire and snow in the suburb.

Nine people were taken to area hospitals for non-life threatening conditions, no fatalities were reported.

The aftermath of the crash, caused by heavy snowfall and hefty wind gusts, left the interstate in a state of despair, with partially burned semi trucks and vehicles scattered throughout the westbound lanes. The area was closed for cleanup following the crash.


February 2021, near Brainerd: 30+ vehicles

Snow poured down over the Brainerd lakes area in February of 2021, resulting in a crash involving more than thirty vehicles.

The crash occurred on Highway 371, located north of Brainerd near Gull Lake. As wind gusts picked up, area residents were on their way out the door for a Friday lunch break. While no life-threatening injuries were reported by the Minnesota State Patrol, those involved in the crash were taken to the local fire department for safety and recuperation.

As city officials worked to clear the scene, the highway was closed to traffic.

December 6, 2021, statewide: 26 injuries

The first snowfall is often considered the most dangerous, as roadways have yet to be coated with the salt that prevents slipping and sliding. That’s what made Dec. 6, 2021 such a dangerous day for Minnesota drivers.

While only an inch of snow had fallen in some areas of the state, motorists and roadways weren’t quite ready for what to expect. As a result, 261 crashes were reported in just 18 hours.

With accidents ranging from single vehicle spin-outs to semi crashes that blocked entire highways and roadways, the crashes resulted in road closures and delays.

In all, 26 people were injured, according to the Minnesota State Patrol. No fatalities were reported.


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Trisha Taurinskas is an enterprise crime reporter for Forum Communications Co., specializing in stories related to missing persons, unsolved crime and general intrigue. Her work is primarily featured on The Vault.

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