8:00 pm update

Montana Highway Patrol troopers now say a crash that blocked traffic between Missoula and Drummond Tuesday evening was caused when seven different vehicles tangled in the curves of the Bearmouth, sending half a dozen people to the hospital.

Troopers say the crash began when a westbound commercial vehicle was traveling too fast for the snowy and icy conditions and slammed into the concrete divider, crossing over into the eastbound lanes where it was hit by the additional vehicles. In all, a pair of commercial vehicles, three passenger cars, and two wreckers were involved in the pile-up.

Troopers say the two wreckers had been at the scene, helping to clear up another accident.

The investigation is continuing. The highway re-opened shortly before 9 pm.

Original report

It was a terrible night for traveling east of Missoula after multiple accidents brought closures and delays to I-90 in Granite County.

The problems began to develop late in the afternoon, as heavy and persistent snow showers created slick conditions in the Upper Clark Fork Valley.

Shortly after 5 pm, Montana Highway Patrol received a report of what was described as a "multi-vehicle crash with multiple injuries" about nine miles west of Drummond. The pile-up happened in the narrow confines of the Bearmouth, the canyon where the freeway goes through the winding defile just east of the Bearmouth Rest Area.

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By 5:30, MHP reported multiple ambulances and first responders were traveling to, and from the accident, and the freeway was closed in both directions. Traffic was being detoured on the frontage road.

Traffic snarled in both directions

Missoula County then issued a MEANS alert, warning drivers to use extreme caution if traveling east. By 6:45 pm, the county was alerting drivers that due to "multiple accidents and extreme weather" eastbound traffic was being diverted to the Drummond Frontage Road at Mile Marker 138.

While most of the impact has been on eastbound traffic, which was completely blocked, the Montana Department of Transportation reported one eastbound lane was also blocked.

MDT was also reporting the freeway was snow-covered and icy from Bonner east to the Bearmouth exit.

Radar was showing continued snow showers throughout the Upper Clark Fork until midnight.


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