Multi-vehicle crashes occurred for the second straight day in east-central Nebraska as low visibility on Monday afternoon temporarily closed a section of eastbound Interstate 80.
Meanwhile, the National Weather Service warned drivers that southerly winds of 25 to 35 mph, gusting to around 55 mph, will make travel difficult for high-profile and lightweight vehicles. Loose items could be blown around. Areas of blowing dust also will reduce visibilities, and the fire danger is considered extreme, the weather service said.
The Nebraska State Patrol said people were injured in the crashes that occurred between York and Seward. One person reportedly was taken to the hospital in Seward.
The patrol recommended drivers take an alternate route.
The weather service reported thick dust clouds blowing across I-80 this afternoon between York and Seward. Wind gusts of 45 to 53 mph were reported in that area.
Alisha Schau said Monday afternoon that it looked like a “blackout” as she and her husband encountered a dust cloud near the crash site west of Seward.
Schau said they saw brake lights and then could hardly see the vehicles in front of them as the dust cloud enveloped them as they drove west toward their home in Cozad, Nebraska.
“All of a sudden, it was blackout,” she said. “You really didn’t know what you were going into.”
The couple had to stop for a few minutes in a westbound lane. Then the traffic began moving, and they drove past wrecked vehicles in the median, plus ambulance crews and other emergency responders.
Shortly before coming upon the crash site, she said, they encountered two other dust clouds west of Lincoln. Visibility was near zero as they drove through, she said, but they were past the dust within seconds.
Dallas Waller, who works near I-80 east of York, said that as he looked out the window of his business Monday afternoon, visibility was down to about a quarter-mile because of swirling dust clouds.
The weather service said windy conditions Monday afternoon were producing blowing dust and reduced visibilities. Wind gusts to around 55 mph can be expected across eastern Nebraska and western Iowa, the weather service said. The winds will continue throughout the afternoon and then diminish to 20 to 30 mph with gusts near 35 mph by 9 p.m.
Fields are being planted across much of the region, and a number of active construction sites are set up, the weather service said. The winds will create areas of blowing dust and dirt, resulting in localized areas of extremely low or near-zero visibility.
Drivers should use caution on Interstate 80 and U.S. Highway 6 and Nebraska Highway 92, all of which are roads that are oriented east to west.