‘Blowing Dust Warning' Issued in Illinois After Dust Storm Causes Large I-55 Crash

"Severely limited visibilities are expected," the warning states. "Travel will be dangerous and possibly life-threatening"

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UPDATE: Multiple people were killed and more than 30 others injured in the crashes, which involved up to 90 vehicles. Latest details here.

A "blowing dust warning" was issued for parts of central and south central Illinois Monday as officials say a dust storm could be behind a large crash on Interstate 55 in the region.

The warning remains in effect through 7 p.m. in Sangamon, Christian and Shelby counties, though a warning was not issued for the location where the crash took place.

"Severely limited visibilities are expected," the warning states. "Travel will be dangerous and possibly life-threatening."

The National Weather Service urged people under the warning to stay indoors until the storm passes.

"Be ready for a sudden drop in visibility to near zero," the NWS stated. "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."

The blowing dust caused a multiple-car pileup on I-55 between Divernon and Farmersville, outside of Springfield, where visibility was reported to be at "less than a quarter of a mile."

Authorities said the "large crash" took place near milepost 76 in Montgomery County.

Interstate 55 was shut down in both directions as police reported "multiple crashes with injuries."

Illinois State Police said troopers were responding to multiple crashes with injuries, shutting down both directions of the major highway from milepost 52 to milepost 80.

Police said "visibility in the area is reported to be low due to blowing dust."

Images on social media showed what appeared to be a dust storm at the time of the accident.

Images Show Dramatic Scene of Large Crash on I-55 Amid Dust Storm in South-Central Illinois

Police urged drivers to seek alternate routes as traffic was being diverted onto a frontage road.

Further details on injuries or how many cars were involved remained unclear.

According to the NWS, "a dust storm is a wall of dust and debris that is blown into an area by strong winds from thunderstorms.

"The wall of dust created by a dust storm can be miles long and several thousand feet high," the NWS website states.

Wind speeds were forecast to be near 40 mph as of noon on Monday in Springfield.

According to the NBC 5 Storm Team, the dust in the air could be caused by tilling, which is common during this time of year.

The NWS noted, however, that Monday's alert marks the office's first blowing dust warning, though similar conditions were reported around this time of year in 2014.

State police said such incidents aren't uncommon.

"This has happened before in various parts of the state of the Illinois, where unfortunately due to excessive high winds, that once the farmers have turned the field, the topsoil or the dirt that’s on top there gets loose," Illinois State Police Major Ryan Starrick said. "It’s extremely dry, and due to the excessive winds of the area, will blow across certain roadways."

Check back for more on this developing story.

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