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Jack-knifed semi leads to 100 vehicles stranded on I-94

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news Willmar, 56201

Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

An emergency operation was under way Thursday night to rescue motorists stranded by a 100-vehicle chain-reaction accident on Interstate 94.

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The accident, caused by high winds and snow resulting in zero-visibility conditions, was reported about noon Thursday 10 miles west of Fargo, N.D., between Mapleton, N.D., and Raymond, N.D.

The rescue operation involved Cass County, the North Dakota Highway Patrol and the North Dakota Department of Transportation.

Capt. Eldon Meher, with the North Dakota Highway Patrol, said the accident was a domino effect, with at least 25 vehicles crashing into each other. Dozens of other vehicles were left stranded for hours between wrecks blocking the highway.

It reportedly began when a pickup ran into a jack-knifed semi and became stuck. A second semi then jack-knifed when it tried to avoid the first accident.

Meher said motorists could not see in front of them and continued to drive into other vehicles or into the ditch.

The accident scene was about a quarter-mile long, said state Highway Patrol Sgt. Dave Wolf.

Angie Kamin was on her way back home to Kindred, N.D., from Fargo when she heard news of the accident on the radio.

Although she and her husband weren't driving more than 10 mph, she said they could barely see past the hood of their Jeep.

They slowed down, knowing they would come upon the scene. When they did, Kamin said she was horrified by the number of vehicles involved.

"It was horrible. I'm a North Dakota, Minnesota resident all my life -- I've driven in everything -- and I've never seen anything like that before," she said.

Near dark, officials still did not know how many motorists remained trapped in their vehicles.

A tactical operations center was set up at 2:30 p.m. Thursday at the Cass County Jail. A staging for snowmobile rescue operations was set up at the Cass County Highway Department building in West Fargo.

By 7 p.m., Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney's office and the Highway Patrol were in full rescue mode.

"We're just doing full blown rescue out of the vehicles," Laney said. "Right now we're just trying to get people out."

Two teams made of snowmobile patrols and snow plows were heading to the scene for rescue operations as of 8 p.m. Laney said he had no idea how many vehicles still had occupants left in them at the time, but the rescue would continue as needed.

"The rescue operations will keep going all night until we feel comfortable everyone is out," Laney said.

Essentia Hospital representatives in Fargo said two people were brought in by ambulance from the accident and one walk-in injury was reported. One person was treated from injuries at Sanford Hospital also.

Wendy Reuer is a reporter for the Fargo Forum, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.

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