GOODWELL, Okla. – A dust storm stirred up near zero visibility across the Oklahoma Panhandle on Tuesday and caused a 10- to 12-car pileup that killed a driver.
"The initial crash was a non-injury, actually, but because traffic is pulling up onto other vehicles in the roadway, obviously that creates a really serious situation and in zero visibility," said Trooper Eric Foster, of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. "One crash happens, then another happens right behind very quickly."
He said the first crash was between two commercial trucks or a car and a truck that were stopped in the middle of the road. Another vehicle was driving too fast for the conditions, couldn't see through the dust and slammed into the first two vehicles.
"It's hard to tell because it took us a while to get into it," Foster said. "We're still trying to iron all that out as to which one was first and which one was second because it all kind of precipitated things."
The NWS clocked wind gusts up to 84 mph Tuesday in Guymon, Oklahoma.
"We had 80-mile-an-hour wind blowing out there in the Panhandle, which is really a lot of farmland and a lot of dust," Foster said. "So, it created a zero-visibility situation blowing across the highway."
One OHP team had to drive through a wall of dust to get to the scene of the pileup. According to a tweet, the team was following an ambulance to the crash site and could barely see the emergency vehicle's flashing lights.
The blinding conditions slowed down first responders getting to the scene and searching for injured victims, according to Foster. Winds prevented medical helicopters from ferrying those who were seriously injured. One person died at the scene.
Video recorded by a Texas County, Oklahoma, Sheriff's deputy showed the chaos surrounding the multiple accidents – mangled cars and semi-trailer parts littered the highway.
Troopers closed down Highway 54 for about three hours.
More travel trouble
The FAA closed Las Vegas' Harry Reid International Airport during the worst of the wind. The NWS recorded a 64-mph gust, making landing unsafe. Several planes were forced to divert to Los Angeles, according to FlightAware.