Dust storms downstate cause fatal car accidents

DECATUR — Dust storms causing poor visibility in central Illinois are being blamed for car accidents that killed two people.

The Illinois State Police said visibility was poor when a 53-year-old Chatham man was killed when he struck a semitrailer, and another vehicle rear-ended his vehicle, Wednesday afternoon on Interstate 72. The third vehicle’s driver was taken to a local hospital with minor injuries. The driver of the semitrailer declined treatment.

A 16-year-old Mahomet boy died after crashing into the back of a semitrailer in Douglas County an hour later. Two 17-year-old passengers suffered injuries that weren’t life-threatening.

The State Police said the accidents were caused by reduced visibility due to blowing winds and dust.

The names of the deceased weren’t immediately released.

National Weather Service meteorologist Ed Shimon said dust storms are rare in the area, but that near-perfect storm conditions existed Wednesday. Gusting winds hit speeds of 45 mph, blanketing rural interstates and roads with clouds of blinding dust.

“The timing of dry weather with strong winds and just recently planted fields with a top layer of fine, ground-up earth,” he said. “It all set the stage for a day like today.”

–Associated Press

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