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A sandstorm in Millard County, Utah, led to a series of deadly crashes on I-15 near Kanosh, about 155 miles southwest of Salt Lake City. The area was under a severe thunderstorm warning. The pileup occurred during a period of high winds. “It appears that 20 vehicles were involved in Sunday’s crashes after high winds caused a sand or dust storm and impaired visibility on the roadway,” the Utah Department of Public Service (DPS) said in a news release. Ground and air ambulances were used to transport crash victims. Several people were transported to local hospitals in critical condition. Images of the crash site show multiple tractor trailers and several damaged passenger vehicles littering the road, with debris scattered for yards. At least eight fatalities were reported, some of them children. Five of the eight people killed in the crash were traveling in one vehicle, the highway patrol said on Monday. The names and ages of the victims were not immediately available.
The road was closed in both directions following the crash, which occurred just before 5 p.m., officials said. The entire state of Utah is in the two most extreme drought categories as of last week, according to the US Drought Monitor. Climate scientists have said this year’s historic drought is fueled by climate change, which decreases precipitation and causes more soil-drying heat waves. Dust storms are not uncommon in Utah, having occurred as recently as June and April in the state.