A rare dust storm in rural central Illinois Monday morning killed six people and injured more than 30 in crashes that swept nearby farms and onto Interstate 55, leading to “zero visibility” conditions, Illinois State Police said. said.
About 20 commercial vehicles and 40 to 60 cars were involved in the crash just before 11 a.m. on a two-mile stretch of road in Farmersville, Ill., south of Springfield, including two tractor-trailers that caught fire, police said. Report.
The injured ranged in age from 2 to 80 and their injuries ranged from minor to life-threatening, officials said, making it difficult to extricate people from their vehicles, some of which were engulfed in flames.
“It’s a difficult scenario, one that’s very difficult to train for, and one that we’ve never really experienced locally,” Kevin Schott, director of Montgomery County’s Emergency Management Agency, said at a news conference Monday. The Environmental Protection Agency was called in to contain the spill from some diesel trucks.
The dust storm came quickly, creating blizzard-like conditions in which visibility was severely reduced, officials said. According to the National Weather Service, drivers in the area were advised to turn on their hazard lights, and they noted that winds should subside around 8 p.m. Monday. A Blowing dust warning In effect for parts of central Illinois until 7 p.m
The highway, a major artery in the area, was closed in both directions between mileposts 63 and 80, and drivers were urged to seek alternate routes.
Although Dust storms According to the National Weather Service, they can occur anywhere in the United States, and are most common in the Southwest. They rarely occur in central Illinois, said Ben Dubelbeis, a meteorologist with the service.
But a dry stretch, combined with very strong winds, created conditions on Monday where Springfield Airport – about 30 miles north of the crash site – recorded only half its usual rainfall for April, Mr. Dubelbeis added. He added that the airport experienced 40 mph winds on Monday.
Similar conditions resulted Eight-vehicle pileup Amarillo, Texas, last month, but officials there said no one was seriously injured.
Nick Gorman, who works in Farmersville, said he saw a “huge cloud of dust” with a chalky taste early Monday morning, causing coughing and obscuring visibility for miles. He said the village, which has a population of less than 700, has never experienced a dust storm warning.
“Whenever August is really dusty,” Mr. Gorman, 22, said. “It was weird this time of year.”