DIVERNON, Ill. — A windstorm in southern Illinois kicked up dangerous clouds of blinding dust off farm fields on Monday, May 1, causing numerous crashes that killed at least six people on Interstate 55, police said.
The late morning crashes involved 40 to 60 cars and multiple tractor-trailers, two of which caught fire, Illinois State Police Maj. Ryan Starrick said.
I-55 was shut down in both directions in Montgomery County, 75 miles north of St. Louis, and likely won’t reopen until Tuesday, May 2.
Starrick told reporters that it was a spring version of a “whiteout situation” typically seen in winter snowstorms. Gov. J.B. Pritzker described the scene as “horrific.”
“The cause of the crashes is due to excessive winds blowing dirt from farm fields across the highway, leading to zero visibility,” Starrick said.
Winds at the time were gusting between 35 mph and 45 mph, the National Weather Service said.
“It’s very flat, very few trees,” meteorologist Chuck Schaffer said. “It’s been very dry across this area really for the last three weeks. The farmers are out there tilling their fields and planting. The top layer of soil is quite loose.”
Starrick said more than 30 people were transported to hospitals with injuries, which occurred in the southbound and northbound lanes.
Evan Anderson, 25, who was returning home to St. Louis from Chicago, said a semi turned before striking his vehicle, sparing him from even more damage.
“You couldn’t even see,” Anderson said. “People try to slow down and other people didn’t, and I just got plowed into. There was just so many cars and semi trucks with so much momentum behind them.”
Kevin Schott, director of emergency services in Montgomery County, said it was a “very difficult scene” and one that’s “very hard to train for.”
“We had to search every vehicle, whether they were involved in the accident or just pulled over, to check for injuries,” he said. “People were “upset — visibly so, understandably so.”
Authorities set up staging areas away from the crash site to help travelers reunite with friends and family.
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It was sad to hear but if they put trees in between the farm fields and the highway the trees would act as a buffer for the wind and dust.
Never going to happen
Where is FMSCA and all of the other assholes who are going to say it was the tractor trailers fault. You know it had to have been the big trucks that caused the high winds. C’mon assholes that don’t know what you are going to do next to make it safer highways. AGAIN I REPEAT YOU NEED TO QUIT GOING AFTER THE COMMERCIAL VEHICLE COMPANIES TO MAKE YOUR HIGHWAYS SAFER BECAUSE THAT IS WHERE THE MONEY IS. HOW ABOUT YOU CHANGE YOUR ANTIQUE RULES OF THE HIGHWAYS MEANING SIGNS. nOTRUCKS IN LEFT LANE BEING THE MOST STUPID DEATH KILLING RULE THEIR IS. WHY DO YOU WANT A WALL OF 18 WHEELERS TO GO THROUGH TO GET ON AND OFF OF THE INTERSTATE HIGHWAY IN HIGH VOLUME AREAS. TELL ME WHY AGAIN AND THEN TELL ME WHY AGAIN FMSCA. CMON TELL ME WHY
Truckers know when they see visibility decreasing to pull over before they reach that point of no visibility. The stress of getting enough miles in the allotted driving time giving them by law my cause the driver even more stress to move on and take a change. Sometimes it’s very a brief situation, sometimes it isn’t. Some customers charge your company a fee, ( and it’s never cheap), or the independent driver for not reaching the deadline on time. Even after driving a thousand miles or more. Being a drive isn’t a “See the country job as advertised.” Your reputation is on the line every day and night you on the road. No professional driver wants to intentionally harm another soul.
I didn’t get to proof read this. Sorry.