1 dead, 17 injured in Texas dust storm accidents
LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — A dust storm in West Texas triggered a series of accidents Wednesday that killed one person, injured at least 17 others and led authorities to close part of Interstate 27 north of Lubbock, a spokesman with the Texas Department of Public Safety said.
Cpl. John Gonzalez said 23 vehicles were involved in a series of chain-reaction crashes south of Abernathy as sand and dust from nearby fields were whipped by winds gusting up to 55 mph.
"It was like a white-out, only this would be black," Gonzalez said. "You couldn't see past the hood of your vehicle."
Gonzalez said the accidents occurred in the southbound lane of Interstate 27 early Wednesday afternoon. He said about a half-dozen crashes occurred in "domino fashion" as visibility in the area dropped to zero.
Gonzalez said a man died at the scene after the sport utility vehicle in which he was traveling slammed into the back of a tractor-trailer. Gonzalez said he was unable to provide other details about the fatality.
None of the other injuries appeared serious, Gonzalez said.
The accidents prompted authorities to close about a five-mile stretch of the highway in both directions between Abernathy and New Deal for about six hours.
Although the road was reopened, the DPS issued a news release "strongly discouraging any travel along the I-27 corridor between Lubbock and Amarillo due to extremely dangerous conditions."
Prolonged drought causes sand to blow off hot, dry dirt, and landowners in the area were being asked to plow their fields, making it more likely that the sand remains settled, Gonzalez said.
"The wind is just terrible, and that's something we hope will help," he said.
Eric Finley, a spokesman for University Medical Center in Lubbock, said 12 people involved in the accidents arrived at that hospital and were treated for what he described as moderate or minor injuries.
"There was nothing to indicate anything major," he said.