Late Thursday afternoon, on Interstate 10 in southwestern New Mexico, six people were killed in a fatal car crash when a dust storm obscured the roadway from view. The crash, which took place in the eastbound lanes of Interstate 10 near Hidalgo, involved seven separate vehicles, including three semi-tractor trailers, a motor home, and three passenger vehicles. Captain Robert Gomez, of the New Mexico State Police Department, said the crash was caused when a motorist was forced to slow down due to a lack of visibility, causing a fatal chain reaction.
The Lordsburg Regional Airport, located near the site of the crash, reported gusts of up to 30 miles per hour roughly an hour before the crash, and Senior Meteorologist Matt Rinde stated that these gusts continued up until the accident. There were also reports of thunder around Lordsburg Regional Airport, although no mention of lightning has surfaced in the police statements regarding the fatal accident, meaning that it likely did not play any role in the collision itself.
New Mexico State police officials initially closed down Interstate 10 following the fatal accident, although the west bound lanes were reopened soon thereafter. Police have since reopened the east bound lanes, although they are currently asking travelers to observe a lowered speed limit along that particular stretch of road. Furthermore, although there were seven vehicles involved in the accident, only six people have been reported dead, and police have not yet commented on how many people were injured by the crash.
The number of injuries caused by this fatal crash has not yet been announced by New Mexico State police officials, but the Arizona Daily Star, a newspaper based in Tuscon, reported that Arizona State police officials have announced that the accident involved a fire on one of the tractor trailers. This report has been supported by ABC News, who claim that all that remains of the vehicles involved in the accident are barely recognizable charred husks.
Southern New Mexico has been characterized by analysts as being notorious for blinding dust storms, and the state highway department has long erected signs warning commuters of the dangers posed by fast gusts of wind. These dangerous conditions are expected to continue in the near future, with the National Weather Service predicting that southern New Mexico may experience gusts of up to 60 miles per hour. This has caused state officials to issue a warning to drivers which encourages them not to drive into the dust thrown up by such gusts of wind.
Southern New Mexico, however, is not the only part of the state which is currently experiencing harsh weather conditions. The eastern part of the state is expecting severe thunderstorms and heavy rainfall. These weather conditions undoubtedly pose a threat to drivers, as was so painfully demonstrated by the fatal car accident on New Mexico’s Interstate 10 during the recent dust storm. Police continue to issue warnings to travelers, hoping their admonitions will prevent another such tragedy in the future.
By Nicholas Grabe