Horrific Crash Involving 90 Cars on I-55 in Southern Illinois Due to Dust Storm
On Monday, a dust storm in southern Illinois caused a horrific and deadly crash involving up to 90 cars on Interstate 55, leaving multiple dead and more than 30 others injured. The crashes occurred in both the southbound and northbound lanes, with six people dying in the northbound lanes alone. Illinois State Police Major Ryan Starrick said that the cause of the crash was due to excessive winds blowing dirt from farm fields across the highway, leading to zero visibility. Victims range in age from 2 to 80 years old, with injuries ranging from minor to life-threatening.
Roughly 40 to 60 passenger cars and several big-rig trucks were involved in the crashes, with two semi-trucks catching fire. The crashes occurred shortly after 11 am local time and shut down I-55 in both directions for miles between Divernon and Farmersville, outside of Springfield. It is anticipated that the thoroughfare will stay shut down until Tuesday afternoon. Divernon City Hall and the Auburn Travel Center are being used as reunification points for family members involved in the crash.
The National Weather Service in Lincoln, Illinois, issued a “blowing dust warning” at 1:25 pm CT, which remains in effect through 7 pm in Sangamon, Christian, and Shelby counties. Blowing dust warnings were also in effect through Monday evening in neighboring Sangamon, Christian, and Shelby Counties. CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said that 45 mph winds picked up the dust and suddenly made it nearly impossible to see on the short stretch of highway.
According to Montgomery County's director of emergency services, Kevin Schott, the scene was extremely challenging and not easily prepared for through training. Schott said through the thick haze, first responders were met with multiple vehicles on fire and dozens of vehicles scattered across both sides of the road, making it hard to get to “victims in a rapid manner.”
Illinois State Police said that the interstate was shut down in both directions from mile markers 52-80. According to officials, the closure of the highway will continue until late morning or early afternoon on Tuesday. Divernon City Hall and the Auburn Travel Center have been designated as reunification points to bring together family members affected by the crash. Traffic is being diverted onto the frontage road, and motorists are urged to take an alternative route.
This is not the first time that this type of crash has occurred in Illinois. High winds can blow loose, dry dirt that has been recently turned over by farmers preparing their fields for the spring planting season, leading to severely limited visibilities and dangerous travel conditions. Starrick said that this type of crash has happened before in various parts of Illinois, but it is not something that is extremely common.
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