Six people were killed Friday when a dust storm accompanied by strong gusts of wind caused a wreck involving 21 vehicles on Interstate 90 in Montana.
According to Montana Highway Patrol Sgt. Jay Nelson, officials believe the weather caused the incident, noting, “It appears there were high winds, causing a dust storm with zero visibility,” the Associated Press (AP) reported. Saturday.
The agency didn’t have an immediate injury tally, but Nelson said more ambulances had been dispatched from Billings to help.
In a social media post on Saturday, Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen wrote“My prayers are with everyone affected by the tragic events of the dust storm in Big Horn County today,” noting that authorities were investigating:
— Montana Highway Patrol (@MTHwyPatrol) July 16, 2022
“We will release more information as it becomes available and appropriate out of respect for the lives lost and their loved ones,” Knudsen concluded.
Video footage showed many vehicles backing up on the freeway, and one truck appeared to have swerved into the median:
Additionally, photographs show the line of vehicles and what appeared to be a torn caravan:
Dust storm causes fatal pileup in Montana https://t.co/x2J4fSP71Z pic.twitter.com/Zndbwe5TS2
— New York Post (@nypost) July 16, 2022
The dust storm began several hours earlier when storms emerged in the south-central part of the state that afternoon and then moved east, said Nick Vertz, a National Weather Service meteorologist. .
The AP report continued:
Those storms sparked a severe thunderstorm watch that covered Hardin and other parts of Montana from mid-afternoon until 9 p.m. Friday. Meteorologists have predicted the potential for isolated quarter-sized hail, scattered wind gusts up to 75 mph (121 km/h) and frequent lightning.
A so-called “outflow” – or a wind wave produced by storms but which can move faster than them – flew east/southeast about 30 miles (48 kilometers) ahead of the storms , said Vertz.
The wind eventually picked up dust and reduced visibility to less than 1/4 mile.
A driver who witnessed the accident told KTVQ News: “It was quite heartbreaking to see.”
“It was like a snowstorm, but dust. Visibility was very low or it was like fog. It reminded me of a very dense fog,” recalls Ariel Dehart.