Blowing dust causes multiple crashes on I-10
CASA GRANDE, Ariz. (AP) -- Authorities say three people are dead and several others seriously injured after a dust storm led to multiple crashes on Interstate 10 south of Casa Grande.
Arizona Department of Public Safety says up to six commercial vehicles may have been involved in chain-reaction collisions shortly after noon Tuesday.
DPS officials say several passenger cars also were involved including one that was pinned between two 18-wheelers.
"We do know that there are 3 confirmed dead. We’re looking at over a dozen injuries and at least 19 vehicles involved in the crash," said Officer Carrick Cook with the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
Television footage showed several cars that smashed into each other in the middle of the highway with most of the big rigs pulled over on the side of I-10 near Picacho (pih-CAH'-cho) Peak in south-central Arizona.
"That area of I-10 is historically known for these major dust storms, these blowing dust storms that come through, said Officer Cook. "At the time of this crash there were reports that there was zero visibility in the road and with these dynamic systems that come through so quickly people are often surprised by it."
Several medical helicopters also were seen taking some of the injured to hospitals.
DPS officials say all westbound lanes of I-10 north of Picacho Peak were closed.
Cook said the investigation will take a long time.
"This could be 3, 4 or even 5 crashes. That’s where the interview comes in with the drivers and witnesses," explained Cook. "But we are investigating this as one major incident so this will all go into one major report."
UPDATE: Interstate 10 closed in both directions near Picacho Peak
ADOT reminds drivers to “Pull Aside, Stay Alive” if dust storm limits visibility
PHOENIX -- Interstate 10 is closed in both directions this afternoon following multiple crashes in the Picacho Peak area, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.
The crashes are believed to be related to blowing dust. They occurred between milepost 214 and 216.
There is no indication when the freeway will reopen, but this is expected to be an extended closure. Motorists are advised to avoid the crash area.
Drivers looking for an alternate route from the Tucson area may take State Route 77 north to State Route 79 north to State Route 287 west to State Route 87 north to State Route 587 south to reconnect with I-10. Travelers from the Phoenix area may use SR 587 north to SR 87 south to SR 287 east to SR 79 south to SR 77 south into the Tucson area.
Drivers are advised to stay alert because strong winds can result in sudden periods of limited or zero visibility due to blowing dust, especially in desert areas. Motorists play an important role in safety when operating their vehicles during a dust storm.
ADOT and the Arizona Department of Public Safety recommend the following driving tips when encountering a low-visibility dust storm:
•Avoid driving into or through a dust storm.
•If you encounter a dust storm, check traffic immediately around your vehicle (front, back and to the side) and begin slowing down.
•Do not wait until poor visibility makes it difficult to safely pull off the roadway — do it as soon as possible. Completely exit the highway if you can, away from where other vehicles may travel.
•Do not stop in a travel lane or in the emergency lane; look for a safe place to pull completely off the paved portion of the roadway.
•Turn off all vehicle lights, including your emergency flashers.
•Set your emergency brake and take your foot off the brake.
•Stay in the vehicle with your seatbelts buckled and wait for the storm to pass.
•Drivers of high-profile vehicles should be especially aware of changing weather conditions and travel at reduced speeds.
•Be alert that any storm can cause power outages to overhead roadway lighting and traffic signals. Drive with caution and treat all intersections without signals as having stop signs in all directions.
For more information driving tips, please visit PullAsideStayAlive.org.
For the most current information about highway closures and restrictions statewide, visit ADOT’s Travel Information Site at www.az511.gov, follow us on Twitter (@ArizonaDOT) or call 5-1-1.