There was a dust storm of epic proportions Friday, July 15 outside Hardin, Montana. Conditions west of the small town that sits on I-90 went from calm to horrific in moments. An outflow – a mass of air pushed ahead of a storm – kicked up dust and created a massive cloud that reduced visibility to near-zero.
The best thing to do is to get off the road and take shelter
At around 4 p.m. that day, a dust storm kicked up west of Hardin. As it traveled by, visibility degraded to zero, causing cars and trucks to crash into each other. A total of 21 vehicles, six of which were commercial motor vehicles (CMVs), were involved in the incident.
In addition, 60 mile-per-hour winds created a stretch of darkness over one mile long where headlights were of no use. Six people died in the incident, two of whom were children. To quote Montana Highway Patrol Sergeant Jay Nelson, “What could people do? It really was just panic.”
State leaders speak about the rogue weather incident
“I’m deeply saddened by the news of a mass casualty crash near Hardin. Please join me in prayer to lift up the victims and their loved ones. We’re grateful to our first responders for their service,” is what Governor Greg Gianforte had to say on Twitter.
Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen said that the Montana Highway Patrol, which he oversees, was investigating the incident. “We will release more information as it becomes available and is appropriate out of respect for the lives lost and their loved ones.”
There is no word yet whether the National Transportation Safety Board or Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will be conducting a federal investigation.