Several people were killed and dozens injured Monday when a dust storm sparked a multi-car crash on I-55 in southern Illinois, authorities said.
How many people were injured?
Police said the crash, which happened around 11 a.m., resulted in “multiple fatalities,” the Associated Press reports. Later reports indicated that at least six people died in the rubble.
More than 30 people were taken to area hospitals, according to Illinois State Police Major Ryan Starrick, ABC News reports.
What caused the accident?
“The cause of the crashes is due to excessive winds blowing dirt from agricultural fields across the highway, leading to zero visibility,” Maj. Starrick said at a news conference Monday.
“It’s very flat, very few trees,” meteorologist Chuck Schaffer told the AP. “It has really been very dry in this area for the last three weeks. Farmers are out there tilling their fields and planting. The topsoil is pretty loose.”
Winds of between 35 and 45 mph were blowing in the area at the time, according to ABC7 Chicago.
How bad was the damage?
An estimated 80 vehicles were involved in the accident, including two semi-trucks that caught fire.
Images of the scene in local news showed thick clouds of dust and smoke, as well as the charred remains of several cars.
“It just feels like the end of the world,” Karen Leach, who was driving through the storm in an RV, told ABC News.
How common are dust storms in Illinois?
Dust storms are not unknown in the accident area.
“This has happened before in various parts of the state of Illinois, where unfortunately, due to excessive high winds, once farmers have turned the field, the topsoil or soil on top loosens up,” said the Major Ryan Starrick on Monday during his press conference. “It is extremely dry and due to the excessive winds in the area, it will blow over certain roads.”
When will I-55 reopen?
Portions of I-55 will remain closed to traffic through Tuesday.
TO a family reunification center has been established at Mr Fuel Travel Center off I-55 in Litchfield.
Will there be more dust storms?
Illinois officials warn that adverse conditions could continue.
“Strong west to northwest winds will continue through Tuesday,” the National Weather Service office in Lincoln, Illinois said. saying on Twitter on Monday. “Such strong winds could cause difficult driving conditions, especially for high-profile vehicles. Be very careful when driving, secure loose objects and avoid burning them if possible.