A massive dust storm caused multiple vehicle collisions on Interstate 55 south of Springfield, Illinois, leaving at least six dead and dozens injured, according to police.
The multiple accidents occurred Monday morning (May 1) at milepost 76 of I-55, both northbound and southbound, Illinois State Police said in a news conference posted on Facebook.
Preliminary information revealed that approximately 20 commercial motor vehicles and between 40 and 60 passenger cars were involved in the accident, according to an Illinois State Police news release posted on Facebook.
Two semi-trailer trucks caught fire as a result of the crash.
So far, police say more than 30 people have been transported to the hospital. Injuries range from minor to life-threatening, with those injured ranging in age from two to 80, WLS reported.
Divernon Town Hall is being used as a reunification center for the families of those involved in the fatal accident.
“The cause of the accident is due to excessive winds blowing dirt from agricultural fields across the highway, creating zero visibility,” the Illinois State Police said.
I-55 is closed from milepost 52 to milepost 80 in both directions while they respond to the massive accident.
They urged motorists to take an alternate route as traffic was diverting onto the side street.
The Illinois Department of Transportation tweeted a photo of the accident that takes a look at the destruction caused by the zero visibility dust storm.
Another Twitter user showed a video of the emergency services arriving on the scene.
A dust storm occurs when strong winds blow loose sand and dirt from dry surfaces in a process called saltation.
As more particles are picked up and hit the ground, they begin to pick up other particles that move a large amount of dust and debris from one area to another.
Wind speed in the area was estimated to be around 35 to 45 mph Monday, according to Weather.com.
Illinois Representative Nikki Budzinski tweeted who was following the devastating accident and urged others to be safe while driving.
she later aggregate, “I am heartbroken by the devastating reports of fatalities in the crash on I-55 today. My thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones of these individuals and with all who have been hospitalized with injuries.”