Everything we know about the massive dust storm car crash on I-55 in Illinois

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Multiple people died in a multi-car accident in Illinois on I-55 during a dust storm on 1 May, according to police (WICS ABC 20 screengrab)

Multiple people were killed and scores were injured on Monday when a dust storm caused a massive multi-car pile-up on I-55 in downstate Illinois, according to officials.

How many people were injured?

Police said the accident, which occured around 11am, resulted in “multiple fatalities,” the Associated Press reports. Later reports indicated that at least six people were killed in the wreckage.

More than 30 people were taken to area hospitals, according to Illinois State Police major Ryan Starrick, ABC News reports.

What caused the crash?

“The cause of the crashes is due to excessive winds blowing dirt from farm fields across the highway, leading to zero visibility,” Major Starrick said at a press coference on Monday.

“It’s very flat, very few trees,” meteorologist Chuck Schaffer told the AP. “It’s been very dry across this area really for the last three weeks. The farmers are out there tilling their fields and planting. The top layer of soil is quite loose.”

Winds of between 35 and 45 mph were blowing in the area at the time, according to ABC7 Chicago.

How bad was the damage?

An estimated 80 vehicles were involved in the wreck, including two semi-truck trailers which caught on fire.

Images of the scene on local news showed thick clouds of dust and smoke, as well as the burnt-out husks of multiple cars.

”It just it feels like, like the end of the world,” Karen Leach, who was driving through the storm in an RV, told ABC News.

How common are dust storms in Illinois?

Dust storms aren’t unheard of in the area of the crash.

“This has happened before in various parts of the state of the Illinois, where unfortunately due to excessive high winds, that once the farmers have turned the field, the topsoil or the dirt that’s on top there gets loose,” major Ryan Starrick said on Monday during his press conference. “It’s extremely dry, and due to the excessive winds of the area, will blow across certain roadways.”

When will I-55 reopen?

Parts of I-55 will remain closed to traffic until Tuesday.

A family reunification centre has been established at Mr Fuel Travel Center off of I-55 in Litchfield.

Will there be more dust storms?

Illinois officials are warning that inclement conditions could continue.

“Strong west to northwest winds will continue through Tuesday,” the National Weather Service’s Lincoln, Illinois, office said on Twitter on Monday. “Winds this strong could cause difficult driving conditions, especially for high profile vehicles. Use extra caution when driving, secure loose objects, and avoid burning if possible.