Blinding Dust Storm in Texas Panhandle Causes Multiple Car Crashes, Shuts Down Highways

It's always a bad sign when West Texas looks more like Mars.

Screencap via New York Post

A multiple-vehicle crash just northwest of Lubbock, Texas, closed U.S. Highway 84 last week, reports KCBD, as an intense dirt storm made it hard to see anything on the road. Footage of the crash is surreal, as it looks more like Mars than the never-ending plains of the Texas Panhandle. 

Sustained wind speeds reached 40 to 50 miles per hour in the multiple-county dust storm with gusts as high as 73 mph, making it hard to even go outside. Those high winds combined with low humidity and warm temperatures created the perfect conditions for a dust storm.

"Due to high winds and blowing dust, multiple areas are reduced to zero or near zero visibility," Lt. Bryan Witt of the Texas Department of Safety told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

High winds kicked up so much dust that Minnesotans over 900 miles away were getting tan snow from dust that was blown into the atmosphere from Texas and New Mexico, per CNN. It fell back down to earth with snow up north, where the snow-dirt mixture was deemed "snirt."

The big crash happened last Wednesday in the westbound lanes of U.S. 84 between Shallowater and Anton. Emergency responders opted to reroute all lanes of traffic on the highway to deal with it, KCBD reports. The dust was so bad at times, KCBD's livestream even loses its view of the cleanup on U.S. 84, even though they're relatively close. Both lanes of traffic reopened later Wednesday evening. 

It certainly wasn't the only crash in the area from the low visibility, either, as My Plainview has a whole gallery of other crashes and damage caused by the winds, noting multiple-car pileups on nearby Interstate 27 as well as several overturned semi-trucks.

While this probably looks like a scene from the Dust Bowl, dust storms like this aren't uncommon in West Texas. My dad used to talk about his car getting sandblasted by similar dust storms when he was stationed out at the now-closed Webb Air Force Base in Big Spring, which sits closer to the base of the Panhandle but lies in the same wind-whipped region. You can't see much, you don't want to be outside, and they generally suck to deal with. 

h/t: New York Post