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Dry and gusty weather leads to fatal Illinois I-55 Crash

Late Monday morning just to the north of Farmersville Illinois on I-55, a nightmare scenario unfolded as an unexpected dust storm would wreak havoc upon drivers. Visibility would be reduced to zero miles all of a sudden on a two-mile stretch of the highway leading to a large accident. 72 vehicles were involved in this massive pile-up that would take the lives of 6 people, while injuring 37 others. The age-span of those involved in this accident range from 2-80 years old.

The same conditions that lead to this accident are once again occurring across nearby counties in Illinois as a dust storm warning remains in effect until 6:15 pm Tuesday. There are multiple influencing factors that contributed to this rare accident for this region.

One factor has to do with strong wind gusts up to 40 mph. A low pressure system parked over the Great Lake Region and a high pressure system located over the Rockies leads to a very steep pressure change in a short distance. This leads to stronger winds as the atmosphere is always trying to reach a state of equilibrium forcing winds to race from areas of highs to fill areas of voids such as low pressure centers.

The second factor that contributed to these dust storms was the drier than average conditions experienced across the region during the month of April. Many areas experienced anywhere from 0.5"-2" of below average rainfall during the past month meaning drier soils.

The final factor that provided the adequate dust needed was farmers plowing fields approaching the upcoming growing season. This would loosen the soil and allow the fine dust particles near the highway to carry with the stronger gusts. All of these factors combined lead to a dust storm restricting visibility causing drivers to crash.

Article Topic Follows: Weather

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Chance Gotsch

Chance Gotsch grew up just south of St. Louis and moved to Columbia to attend the University of Missouri to pursue a degree in Atmospheric Sciences.

His interest in weather begin as a child when he used to be afraid of storms.

Chance joined the ABC 17 Stormtrack Weather Team in February 2021. He is currently the weekday noon meteorologist.


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