At least six people were killed Friday afternoon after strong wind gusts fueled a dust storm and caused a massive pileup on Interstate 90 in Montana.

Over 20 vehicles collided about 45 miles east of Billings around 4:30 p.m. as an “outflow” surge of wind outpaced a severe thunderstorm, according to police and meteorologists.

“It appears as though there was heavy winds, causing a dust storm with zero visibility,” said Montana Highway Patrol Sgt. Jay Nelson.

It was unclear how many people were injured. Additional ambulances had to be called in from Billings to transport victims, officials said.

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

Montana pileup
According to police and meteorologists, an “outflow” surge of wind fueled the dust storm that caused the pileup.
Amy Lynn Nelson/The Billings Gazette via AP
Montana pileup
“It was just a surge of wind that kind of appeared out of nowhere,” meteorologist Nick Vertz said.
Amy Lynn Nelson/The Billings Gazette via AP

Gusts of wind as high as 64 mph were recorded at nearby Big Horn County Airport around the time of the crash, kicking up dust caused by recent hot temperatures and reducing visibility to about 1/4 mile, according to the National Weather Service.

“If they looked up in the sky while they’re in Hardin, they probably didn’t see much of what you’d think of for a thunderstorm cloud, maybe not even much at all,” meteorologist Nick Vertz said. “It was just a surge of wind that kind of appeared out of nowhere.”

With AP wires

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