MARATHON COUNTY (WAOW) -
All lanes of Interstate 39 in Marathon County near Knowlton are back open after a crash involving more than 20 vehicles, according to the Marathon County Sheriff's Department.
Authorities said three people were taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries following the Tuesday afternoon pileup that blocked northbound traffic. The Wisconsin State Patrol said snow and blowing snow from a storm that dumped 7 inches of snow in the Wausau area contributed to the crash that had traffic backed up more than a mile and closed the highway for almost four hours.
Emergency officials who responded to the scene say they worked together to be sure everyone was safe during the ordeal.
"From as far back as we were, we just saw so many cars backed up." said Mosinee Fire Chieg Josh Klug.
Investigators say the crash started when a car lost control on I-39 north, causing several cars to run into each other and slide into a ditch.
"It got a little skewed because many of them were not involved in per say, but ended up in the ditch as a result of the crash." said Marathon County Sheriff's Dept. Chief Deputy Chad Billeb.
Officials say they tried to clear the scene as fast as possible and designated a detour route for drivers.
"Your first concern is for the people that are out there on the highway," added Billeb "Not only the people that are involved in that crash, but those coming into that scene."
"They did a great job rerouting traffic, being able to pull u-turns and getting those vehicles out so that they weren't stranded." said Steve Hagman, emergency management director for Marathon County.
Sheriff's officials say they're happy with the way emergency response handled this scary and dangerous situation.
"We're probably going to be doing a debrief so we can sit down with everybody and discuss what went well and what we could have done differently," said Billeb "But by all accounts the ability to get people off the highways as fast as we did, to get traffic detoured and rerouted."
Officials know the crash could have been much worse.
"We are very fortunate that nobody was killed in this crash, and that more people weren't injured," said Billeb.
Marathon County Sheriff's officers say the crash reconstruction team was on scene Tuesday, but they will not be doing a full investigation because there were no fatalities.