Six people died and a number of others were injured after a dust storm caused 21 cars to pile up on a Montana highway on Friday when the storm dramatically reduced visibility.
Winds blowing in excess of 60 miles per hour led to the dust storm which left 21 vehicles crushed on Interstate 90, while the number of people injured is not yet clear.
“It appears there were high winds, causing a dust storm with zero visibility,” said the Montana Highway Patrol Sgt. Jay Nelson.
Additional ambulances were brought in from Billings, Montana to help deal with the situation, which happened three miles west of Hardin, Big Horn County, in the state.
Montana Governor Greg Gianforte tweeted: “I am deeply saddened by the news of a mass accident near Hardin. Please join me in prayer to lift the victims and their loved ones. We are grateful to our first responders for their service.”
Scientists have previously warned that climate change will create conditions that could exacerbate dust storms. Storms occur when strong winds blow over dry areas, meaning drought caused by rising global temperatures may play a role.
The Montana tragedy comes after more than 100 million Americans were hit by a heat wave in mid-June and were warned to stay indoors amid high temperatures and high humidity.
This heat wave saw several temperature records set in different parts of the United States over the weekend of June 11-12. It was followed by a second heat wave, which involved heat alerts for more than nine million people in eight different states on June 20.
And on July 11, Texans were urged to save energy amid a heat wave as the state’s power grid operator warned of potential blackouts.
Dust storms are a constant concern in the United States and elsewhere due to rising global temperatures.
Utah’s Great Salt Lake fell to its lowest level on record on July 14 and sparked new concerns about dust storms in the region. The lake is the largest salt lake in the Americas and the 8th largest in the world. Its levels have been recorded since 1847.
“Saving the Great Salt Lake, so that we don’t become Dust Lake City, is making a conscious choice that the lake is precious and that the lake needs to be supplied with water,” said the specialist. atmosphere Kevin Perry to Reuters earlier. this month.
Salt Lake City is already experiencing dust storms and experts fear they will get worse.
The problem is not limited to the United States, however, as dust storms in April and May this year affected several countries in the Middle East, while Spain was hit by a major dust storm in march.
Sara Basart, senior scientist at the Barcelona Dust Regional Center, told Bloomberg on June 6, “We are seeing an unusual number of sandstorms and unusually intense ones.”
“Dust is no longer just a public health issue — it can shut down economic activity in an area if concentrations are high enough,” Basart said.
The Barcelona Regional Dust Center coordinates research on sand and dust storms in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East for the World Meteorological Organization.
Europe is also currently experiencing a heatwave with at least 281 deaths in Portugal and Spain attributed to the heat. The UK has declared a national emergency due to high temperatures there.