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Six dead in 21-vehicle pileup on Montana highway during dust storm – NBC News

Six people are dead in a Montana highway pileup Friday that may have been caused by a dust storm, authorities said.

A series of collisions involving 21 vehicles happened on Interstate 90 near Hardin, Montana Highway Patrol Sgt. Jay M. Nelson said by email.

“A quick-arising dust storm caused a 21-vehicle incident this evening,” he said.

Officials did not immediately release information Friday night on possible injuries.

Delays on the highway are expected to last for hours, Nelson said.

All eastbound traffic was being diverted off the highway, and westbound traffic has been reduced to one lane, according to the Montana Department of Transportation, which first reported about the pileup near mile post 493 at 4:55 p.m.

“I’m deeply saddened by the news of a mass casualty crash near Hardin,” Gov. Greg Gianforte tweeted. “Please join me in prayer to lift up the victims and their loved ones. We’re grateful to our first responders for their service.”

There were thunderstorms over Billings, a city around 40 miles to the west of Hardin, and an “outflow” which sent strong winds toward Hardin, said National Weather Service meteorologist Todd Chambers.

“The winds outran the thunderstorm,” Chambers said.

The winds picked up dust and a gust of 64 mph was recorded near Hardin, he said. Visibility measured around a quarter of a mile.

The National Weather Service had issued severe thunderstorm watches and warnings for south central and southeastern Montana Friday.

Phil Helsel contributed.

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