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I-10 reopened after dust storm causes huge pileup

By Mark Carlson

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 5 2011 5:00 p.m. MDT

Arizona Department of Public Safety officers and other emergency personnel make their way around vehicles involved in a crash on Interstate 10 near Picacho Peak about midway between Tucson and Phoenix on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011. A blinding dust storm rolled across the Arizona desert, causing three pileups involving dozens of vehicles on the interstate. A 70-year-old man was killed and at least 15 other people were injured, authorities said.

Darryl Webb, Associated Press

PHOENIX — The busy Interstate 10 corridor northwest of Tucson reopened Wednesday after a massive dust storm caused a deadly pileup that littered the highway with wrecked rigs, damaged cars and freight strewn.

It took hours for wreckers to weave through the blocked traffic to reach the crash scene and remove vehicles. Some trucks and cars were pushed off to the side of the road so the interstate could reopen.

Clouds of dust covered the roadway in the Picacho area, about 54 miles northwest of Tucson, cutting visibility and causing 30 vehicles and drivers to slam into each other Tuesday afternoon.

Jim Meyer, a forecaster with the National Weather Service, told The Associated Press that the storm was not like others that struck central Arizona earlier this summer.

"It wasn't a widespread event," Meyer said. "It looked fairly localized."

That area is also prone to blowing dust because it's an agricultural area, Meyer said.

The chain-reaction crash killed a Texas man identified as William Joseph Tatsch, 66, of Austin. He was killed when a Honda sedan driven by his wife collided with a freight-hauling truck, Arizona Department of Public Safety said. The sedan went under the rear end of the commercial vehicle it collided with, DPS said.

DPS spokesman Doug Nintzel said it was nearly impossible to give warning to motorists because dust storms sweep through quickly.

"The storm occurred without warning," Nintzel said. "There are challenges in warning drivers because dust storms are unpredictable."

At least 15 others were injured in separate crashes. A spokeswoman at University Medical Center in Tucson said the hospital was treating 12 patients involved in the collisions. Three were listed as critical and the other nine were in serious condition as of Tuesday evening.

The area could see more weather problems, the weather service said. Meyer said winds will pick up Thursday in the Picacho area, which is prone to blowing dust.

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