BILLINGS, Montana: Six people died in Montana on July 15 after a 21 car pile-up on Interstate 90 following a dust storm driven by 60 mph winds.
Twenty-one vehicles crashed into each other, according to Montana Highway Patrol Sgt. Jay Nelson.
“It appears as though there was heavy winds, causing a dust storm with zero visibility,” he said, according to the Associated Press.
Authorities did not have an accurate count of the injured, however, Nelson said additional ambulances arrived from Billings to transport injured auto passengers to hospitals.
Posting on Twitter, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte said, “I’m deeply saddened by the news of a mass casualty crash near Hardin. Please join me in prayer to lift up the victims and their loved ones. We’re grateful to our first responders for their service.”
The chain reaction of accidents occurred 3 miles west of Hardin, Montana. A video posted by The Billings Gazette showed hundreds of tractor-trailers, campers and cars backed up for miles along the interstate.
Dust storms began in central southern Montana between 1 and 2 p.m. and slowly began moving east, according to Nick Vertz, a National Weather Service meteorologist.
This was followed by a severe thunderstorm watch for Hardin and other areas of Montana from mid-afternoon until 9 p.m.
Meteorologists warned of isolated hail the size of quarters, wind gusts up to 75 mph and lightning.
First reports of the massive crash were received at 4:28 p.m.
The wind blew the dust – a product of recent 90 degree temperatures over the last week – reducing visibility to less than one-quarter mile.
“If they looked up in the sky while they’re in Hardin, they probably didn’t see much of what you’d think of for a thunderstorm cloud, maybe not even much at all,” Vertz said. “It was just a surge of wind that kind of appeared out of nowhere,” as quoted by the Associated Press.