More than 30 people were injured and at least six were killed in a series of collisions during a dust storm on Interstate 55 in southern Illinois on Monday, according to authorities. At least 30 commercial vehicles and 40 to 60 automobiles were involved in the collisions just before 11 a.m. The incidents started on the north end of the highway, and some extended to the south side, over a stretch of 2 miles, Illinois State Police said. So far, the six fatalities occurred on the northbound lanes, the police said. The Illinois State Police reported that officers responded to multiple injury crashes on Interstate 55 near mile post 76 in Montgomery County due to the strong winds carrying dust from nearby farm fields onto the roadway. Injuries ranged from minor to potentially fatal, and those injured were between 2 and 80 years old. Two semitrailers caught fire and there were also reports of an explosion. The highway is closed in both directions from mile post 63 to 80, according to the Illinois State Police. Visibility is low due to dust rising from freshly plowed fields. The Illinois Department of Transportation tweeted shortly after 11:15 a.m. that Interstate 55 is closed in both directions between Divernon and Farmersville, in Sangamon and Montgomery counties. Burnt truck beds, detached tractor trailers, and various destroyed vehicles were scattered along the highway after the incident. United States Representative Nikki Budzinski, a Democrat from Springfield, tweeted, "My team and I are closely monitoring the devastating accident on Interstate 55 as authorities gather more information. Please be careful as this situation continues to develop." Traffic is being diverted onto IL-48 and IL-104 through Taylorville, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. Drivers are asked to avoid the area as the roadway is not expected to reopen until at least Tuesday morning. The police believe that everyone has been transported from the scene, but hundreds of officials conducted a second search of vehicles on Monday afternoon. Several helicopters were deployed to the accident site. Drivers were incredulous and said that visibility was almost nonexistent once they entered the dust cloud, which moved over Interstate 55 without warning. Many did not have time to brake and collided with the vehicles in front of them. Nathan Cormier captured a video of the scene. He was able to slow down just in time to avoid being hit by two cars around him and was one of the first to see what was coming over the southbound lanes. Cormier said he got out of his car and started helping stunned drivers out of their vehicles before emergency services could make their way through the traffic jam to begin evacuating drivers. After his effort, he was covered in dust. "People just kept driving towards it. The proper procedure would have been to turn on emergency lights, stop, and let the dust cloud pass, but people just kept driving towards it," Cormier said. "I know the person in the car in front of me. They crashed into a truck and suffered broken ribs and a lot of facial bruises from the airbag deployment. It was a terrible day. And it still is. When I entered the cloud, at first it was clear, but then it became a real disaster, practically a gray visibility." Cormier was stranded for about four hours. Later on Monday, he was finally able to leave the chaos as teams worked slowly to clear the debris. Dust storms like this are not uncommon in Illinois. Larry Mowry, a meteorologist at ABC7 Chicago, said winds in the area had reached speeds of 35 to 45 mph, and the terrain was dry. Megan Styles, an environmental scientist at the University of Illinois in Springfield, said that farmers had just planted their fields. The storm seemed to cover a stretch of 20 to 30 miles, originating several miles west of the Interstate 55 corridor. The affected stretch of Interstate 55 is roughly 25 miles south of Springfield. Originally posted at Liga Legal®