CASA GRANDE, Ariz., Dec. 22 (UPI) -- A sudden dust storm south of Phoenix blinded drivers Tuesday morning on Interstate 10, setting off a chain of collisions that killed three people, police said.
The pileups involved nine tractor-trailers and 13 cars and sport utility vehicles, The Arizona Republic reported. At least five people were evacuated by air to hospitals.
I-10 eastbound in Casa Grande was expected to be closed all day. The westbound highway was closed off and on because of poor visibility.
Two of the dead were local teenagers, Mark Eide, 17, and his sister, Katie, 14. Police said their SUV burst into flames after being struck by a tractor-trailer.
Edgar Ivan Medina-Vargas of Iowa City was also killed. His pickup truck was hit by a truck driven by his father, who was following him, and then struck by two semis.
Leslie Wanek, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said gusty winds like those Tuesday can cause sudden changes in visibility, cutting abruptly it from 40 miles to less than a mile.
Harold Sanders, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Public Safety, said drivers who see dust storms ahead of them should immediately get off the road.