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A dust storm led to one of the biggest vehicle pileups in California history

Sunday, November 28th 2021, 11:50 pm - On November 29, 1991, a Californian highway was struck with blinding waves of dust, causing 104 vehicles to crash.

This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by Chris Mei from The Weather Network, featuring stories about people, communities and events and how weather impacted them.


November 29, 1991, was a sunny day for central California. At least that was true for most of the day.

This is a story that should only be true in sci-fi films set on Mars. But instead of Mars, this event occurred on a 2.4 km stretch of the I-5 Highway in San Joaquin Valley.

On the sunny day, a sudden dust storm overtook the highway and caused four separate multi-vehicle pileups.

The California Highway Patrol reported at least 93 cars and 11 transport trucks had crashed.

The crashes were so devastating because of the suddenness of the storms. It's also interesting to note that it was Black Friday, so there could have been an influx of traffic on the roads.

The dust storms caused immediate blindness. Some Canadians perhaps can relate better to snowstorms and can appreciate the sudden zero visibility.

sand dunes highway Courtesy: Pixabay

Check out today's episode of "This Day In Weather History" to hear about the crash from one survivor's perspective. It's really horrific.

In total, the dust storm caused 104 vehicles to crash, 150 injuries, and 17 deaths.

The cause of this dust storm was the accumulation of a five-year drought.

The highway was sandwiched between two barren fields. There was plenty of sand and no crops to hold the sand in place.

All it took were a few large gusts of wind for drivers to go from clear to zero visibility.

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Thumbnail credit: Arizona Department of Transportation

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