State

Rare dust storm closes central Illinois highway

CARLINVILLE – A rare dust storm forced state transportation authorities to shut down a 5-mile stretch of a central Illinois highway because of low visibility and a series of crashes.

Friday’s dust storm near Carlinville caused several car crashes on Illinois 108, with drivers saying they couldn’t see beyond the hoods of their cars, The (Springfield) State Journal-Register reported.

The road was closed for about four hours.

Authorities said the dust storm was caused by strong southerly winds and dirt from dry farm fields that have little snow cover. Wind gusts in the area reached 37 mph.

“It’s disconcerting when you see a great big brown cloud of dust coming at you,” said Paula Iden, who drove through the blowing, swirling clouds of dust. “The cornfields still have corn stalks in them. It wasn’t too bad when you passed them. It was when you passed the ones that used to have soybeans. The dust is very loose.”

Illinois State Police said a trooper was injured in a crash caused by the dust storm when he was rear-ended by another driver. A Secretary of State Police officer was involved in another collision. None of the injuries was serious.

Sangamon County Farm Bureau manager Jim Birge said the one-day wind event shouldn’t cause serious damage to farm fields.

Carlinville is about 35 miles south of Springfield.

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Information from: The State Journal-Register, http://www.sj-r.com

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