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Authorities: At least 1 dead, more than a dozen hurt in Arizona crashes caused by dust storm
PICACHO, Ariz. (AP) ' A blinding dust storm rolled across the Arizona desert Tuesday afternoon, causing two pileup crashes involved at least 30 vehicles on a major interstate. One man was killed and at least 15 other people were injured, authorities said.
"It's pretty chaotic out there," said state Department of Public Safety spokesman Bart Graves.
Video from helicopters showed dozens of cars and semis pulled over or strewn about Interstate 10 near Picacho, about midway between Phoenix and Tucson.
Fire officials said crews were working to remove the man who was killed from his vehicle and get four critical patients to a Tucson hospital. More than 10 others had less serious injuries.
Katie Maass, a spokeswoman at University Medical Center in Tucson, said the hospital had not yet received patients from the crash but was "preparing for an emergency."
One of the early afternoon crashes occurred in the eastbound lanes of the interstate and the other in the westbound lanes as a dust storm suddenly moved in. Such storms are common across southern Arizona's dusty landscape during dry and windy conditions, and walls of dust more than a mile high can blanket an area in a matter of seconds, sometimes reducing visibility to zero.
Traffic was backed up at least five miles, and all traffic was being diverted elsewhere while the interstate was closed.
Although it was still early to evaluate the extent of the damage, Graves said dust storms have created worse crashes. One in 2009 near Casa Grande caused chain-reaction explosions and fires and killed three people, he said.
"We did not have that, fortunately, in this situation," he said. "While it's sad there's a fatality and it's serious, it could have been a lot worse."