At least one person was killed in a pileup involving over 60 vehicles on a highway in western Oregon Wednesday, and authorities believe thick fog in the area of the crash may have been a factor.
The chain-reaction crash occurred at 7:42 a.m. PDT Wednesday on Interstate 5 southbound between Salem and Eugene in Linn County, according to Oregon State Police. Authorities said there was at least one confirmed fatality from the crashes, noting that visibility was extremely limited due to the fog at the time of the accident. The pileup involved 45 passenger vehicles as well as between 15 and 20 tractor-trailer trucks and other commercial vehicles, police said.
All lanes on I-5 southbound were blocked off for several hours after the pileup, with a detour in place, while traffic in the northbound lanes continued "to be slow moving" as of Wednesday afternoon, police said.
State police temporarily dropped the cable barrier separating both sides of the interstate in order to detour southbound vehicles onto the northbound lanes. School buses from Eugene were called in to transport about 40 stranded drivers from the scene.
State police also said that some of the semi-trucks involved in the pileup were leaking fluids onto the roadway, and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and HAZMAT teams responded to clean up the spillage.
According to AccuWeather Senior Weather Editor Jesse Ferrell, the nearest airport in Corvallis (approximately 13 miles from the accident site) reported fog and visibility of just a quarter-mile at 7:40 a.m. PDT, noting that conditions may have varied at the crash site.
A satellite image from Wednesday morning shows fog and wildfire smoke along the Interstate 5 corridor in Oregon between Portland and Roseburg. (NOAA/GOES-WEST)
Fog and wildfire smoke was both visible from satellite along the I-5 corridor in Oregon Wednesday morning. About seven wildfires were burning throughout Oregon on Wednesday, according to the state Department of Emergency Management.
Investigators with the state police collision unit were working to reconstruct the crash to determine the cause. Emergency crews were also busy responding to two other multi-vehicle crashes reported hours later by the Oregon Department of Transportation near the Corvallis-Lebanon exit on I-5 southbound.
Fog also played a role in a March multi-vehicle pileup in Missouri that killed at least six people, according to authorities. The chain-reaction crashes occurred on Interstate 57 near Charleston also during the morning rush hour.
Want next-level safety, ad-free? Unlock advanced, hyperlocal severe weather alerts when you subscribe to Premium+ on the AccuWeather app. AccuWeather Alerts™ are prompted by our expert meteorologists who monitor and analyze dangerous weather risks 24/7 to keep you and your family safer.