A dust storm raced through the Arizona desert Tuesday, blinding drivers and triggering three separate pileups that left 18 injured and one person dead, authorities said.
All lanes on Interstate 10 were closed Tuesday following the deadly crash with semis, cars, and trucks mangled in a massive pileup.
The first dust wave blew across the interstate at about 12:15 p.m. MST (3:15 EDT), causing a 16-vehicle pileup. That incident occurred near Picacho, about 40 miles north of Tucson.
In that incident, a 70-year-old man was killed and his wife, who was driving the car at the time, was taken to University Medical Center in Tucson with life-threatening injuries. The couple's vehicle was sandwiched between two commercial vehicles and partially lodged underneath one, according to a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
It took 45 minutes to hook up winches to the vehicle, pull it out, and cut the woman free from the car to take her to the hospital, authorities said.
It looked like a war zone, Patrick Calhoun, one of the first rescuers to responder to the scene, told The Associated Press. This has been one of the worst pileups we've had on the I-10.
A second pileup involved eight cars on the same freeway about 20 miles north of Tucson. That incident occurred roughly two hours after the first.
At about 4 p.m. local time, a third collision, involving two tractor-trailers and a small car, occurred on Interstate 10 near Chandler, roughly 100 miles north of Tucson. The two people in the car were seriously injured, officials said.
A spokesman for the University Medical Center said the hospital was treating 12 patients involved in the collisions. Three were listed in critical condition while the other nine were in serious condition.
While stopping short of calling the storm a haboob or major sandstorm, meteorologist Mike Bruce, with the National Weather Service in Phoenix, told the Los Angeles Times Anytime the wind blows, it kicks up dust.
There's a risk of this happening in Arizona every time we get a strong wind until we get a significant amount of rainfall, Bruce added.
At least three major sandstorms have brushed through Arizona this summer, though dust storms are more common.
Dust storms are a regular occurrence during dry and windy conditions and can cause walls of dust to envelope an area within seconds, severely reducing visibility.
While the weather service did warn people about strong winds on Tuesday, no warning was issued for a dust storm.
Watch footage of the storm below: