At least 15 Injured During Severe Tucson-Phoenix Area Dust Storms

Dust storms struck parts of I-10 recently. A dust storm that affected drivers on Interstate 10 between Tucson and Phoenix on Tuesday, October 4th, resulted in at least 15 injuries, according to published reports.

Though relatively uncommon, a sudden – and severe – dust storm struck portions of the state last week, according to a report from FleetOwner. As a result of the storm, which impaired motorists’ vision and spurred a massive traffic jam on I-10, one man was reportedly killed, according to police reports.

One crash on I-10 reportedly involved 16 vehicles. The dust storm is said to have occurred around midday, when a blanketing of dust enveloped portions of I-10 about 40 miles north of Tucson, as well as the surrounding communities. Police officials said the man who was apparently killed during the Arizona automobile collision was a 70-year-old man; his wife was severely injured as well after the car they were driving in reportedly crashed into the back of a tractor trailer.

The Arizona Daily Star reports the dust storm caused the largest series of car collisions on I-10 in 2011. Fifteen other people were injured in two crashes involving some 16 motor vehicles on westbound I-10, according to The Daily Star.

Another car accident was also reportedly prompted by the dust storm, according to police reports. At 1:45 p.m. in the eastbound lanes of I-10, an eight-vehicle pileup apparently occurred. Two people were reported to have sustained critical injuries as a result of that accident.

Officials affirmed the dust storms that struck over the course of the day were so thick that they could not employ helicopters to help transport injured persons to local hospitals. That complicated rescue efforts, a spokesperson from the Phoenix Police Department said.

Police and Department of Transportation authorities closed down both directions on I-10 in the aftermath as crews worked to clean detritus and rescue workers arrived at the scenes of the alleged incidents.

Rescue workers who arrived at the scene asserted the dust storms were some of the worst they had ever endured in their careers. Patrick Calhoun, who was one of the first such workers to arrive at the scene of the 12 p.m. incident told The Associated Press of the dire conditions workers faced.

“It looks liked a war zone,” he said. “This has been one of the worst pileups we’ve had on the I-10.”

Dust storms occur often in the bowl area between Tucson and Phoenix, experts assert. The terrain between the two cities makes it an ideal location for dust storms to form, as it is relatively flat and there are ample dust sources.

The dust storms that originate north of Tucson and travel to Phoenix are often exacerbated by Pinal County’s degraded bowl. The area is comprised of tilled land, grazed desert, feedlots and other variables that can – and sometimes do – coalesce to spur the creation of massive dust storms, police officials said.