Photo: Canadian Press
First responders work at the scene of Interstate 90 after a fatal backlog of at least 20 vehicles crashed near Hardin, Mont on Friday, July 15, 2022 (Amy Lynn Nelson/The Billings Gazette via AP)
Two children were among six people who died during protests in Montana after a dust storm caused a power outage Friday night on Interstate 90, a major highway in Montana and the western United States.
Montana Highway Patrol Sgt. Jay Nelson said investigators found no other factors that contributed to the accumulation of injuries, which also resulted in the injury of eight people to the hospital.
“Everything points to isolated extreme weather events,” Nelson said of the investigation, describing the incident as one of the worst he’s seen in his 24 years with the state. “What can people do? It was really just panic.
The meeting took place west of Hardin, where an additional ambulance from Billings was called to help. The identities of the dead and the condition of the survivors have not been released.
Authorities said the crash was reported around 4.30pm, with 21 vehicles, including six semi-commercial trucks, losing control in a dust storm driven by 60mph (97kph) wind gusts .
There’s no clear view for a mile during peak summer traffic for those commuting to work or traveling for outdoor recreation, Nelson said.
It took more than six hours to fully reopen the road.
“We had a lot of debris and total chaos,” Nelson said.
Governor Greg Gianforte said on Twitter: “I am deeply saddened by the news of the large number of casualties near Hardin. Join me in prayer for the victims and their loved ones. We thank the first responders for their service.
Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen said in a statement that the Montana Highway Patrol, which he oversees, is investigating the case. “We will release more information as it becomes available and as appropriate to honor the lives lost and their loved ones.
Video from The Billings Gazette shows hundreds of trailers, trailers and cars backing up for miles along an eastbound two-lane highway.
Before the storm intensified, it appeared in south-central Montana between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. and began moving slowly eastward, said Nick Wirts, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Billings.
The storm brought a severe thunderstorm that covered Hardin and other parts of Montana from noon to 9 p.m. Friday. Meteorologists are predicting the possibility of isolated quarter-sized hail, scattered winds of up to 75 mph (121 km/h) and frequent lightning.
Virts said the so-called outlet — or storm surge — flew about 30 miles before the storm hit.
Winds were raging rapidly at the time of the crash, according to readings from the nearby Big Horn County airport. 40 mph (64 km/h) was recorded about 15 minutes before the crash was reported and within an hour another wind wave hit 64 (103 km/h).
The winds pick up dust easily — the product of recent temperatures in the 90s and in the triple digits over the past week — and reduce visibility to less than 1/4 mile (0.4 kilometer).
“If they looked up at Hardin, they probably didn’t see as much of what you might think of a thundercloud, and maybe not much at all,” said Virts. A gust of wind appeared out of nowhere. ”
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