LANCASTER, Calif. (AP) — A blinding sandstorm that caught drivers by surprise caused a 12-car pileup Tuesday on a highway in the high desert north of Los Angeles, killing at least two people and injuring 16, authorities said.

Two victims were in critical condition after the crash that left vehicles scattered across the highway, Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Ron Haralson said.

The crash was reported around 1:40 p.m. during a sandstorm whipped by winds gusting up to 55 mph, the National Weather Service said.

Eight vehicles and four big rigs were involved in the pileup, fire officials said.