A brutal windstorm caused multiple fatalities, pileups and crashes along Interstate 55 in Illinois Monday.
Illinois State Police said there was a crash at 10:55 am on northbound I-55 at milepost 76, south of Springfield. At the same time and in the same area, there were multiple crashes on southbound I-55.
Dusty winds reduced visibility to near-zero, causing at least 40 to 60 vehicles to ultimately crash, including two tractor-trailers that caught fire. That compounded the issue by sending thick black smoke into the air.
Illinois State Police Maj. Ryan Starrick said at least six people died and more than 30 people were hospitalized for minor to life-threatening injuries, ranging from ages 2 to 80.
Starrick said the storm was a spring version of a "whiteout situation" seen in winter snowstorms.
Police closed the highway in southern Sangamon and northern Montgomery Counties for 28 miles after the crash. They're directing those involved and their families to reunite at The Divernon City Hall.
**UPDATE at approximately 12:11 p.m.**
Interstate 55 is shut down from milepost 52 – 80, both directions. Divernon City Hall being used as reunification post for families of people involved in the crash.
— IllinoisStatePolice (@ILStatePolice) May 1, 2023
The National Weather Service in St. Louis said wind gusts ranged between 35 and 45 mph. It said a combination of newly plowed fields and gusty northwest winds generated a dust storm in the area and warned people with respiratory problems to remain inside until the storm passes.
Both directions of I-55 will remain closed until at least Monday evening. Strong winds are expected to continue into Tuesday.
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