At least six killed after windstorm causes massive pileup on Illinois highway

At least six people were killed and dozens of others were injured Monday when low-visibility conditions caused a massive pileup on a southern Illinois highway.

As many as 80 vehicles were involved in the pileup that occurred on I-55 between Divernon and Farmersville, south of Springfield around 11 a.m. after a dust storm. The Illinois State Police said up to 60 passenger vehicles and 20 commercial vehicles were involved.

At least two semi-trailers caught fire and a number of explosions were reported.

“The cause of the crash is due to excessive winds blowing dirt from farm fields across the highway leading to zero visibility,” said Illinois State Police.

More than 30 people were hospitalized after the crashes, which occurred in the northbound and southbound lanes.

Videos of the aftermath showed a line of disabled cars both on and off the road as blowing dust and plumes of smoke create hazy conditions.

The crash and conditions closed more than 20 miles of the highway.

“Interstate 55 in southern Sangamon and northern Montgomery counties remains closed in both directions because of numerous crashes caused by a dust storm, which has greatly reduced visibility,” the state Department of Transportation said.

The state police said the highway would be closed until at least Tuesday morning.

The National Weather Service said wind gusts of up to 45 miles per hour were expected to continue in the area.

“People with respiratory problems should make preparations to stay indoors until the storm passes. Be ready for a sudden drop in visibility to near zero,” the National Weather Service warned.

“If you encounter blowing dust on the roadway or see it approaching, pull off the road as far as possible and put your vehicle in park. Turn the lights all the way off and keep your foot off the brake pedal.”

With News Wire Services