A thick “super fog” swept through New Orleans on Monday, blanketing the region in an impenetrable haze that led to a traffic pileup involving dozens of vehicles and killed at least seven people, officials said.
At least 158 vehicles were involved in a series of crashes that began just before 9 a.m. on Interstate 55 northwest of New Orleans, with fog as a “contributing factor,” Louisiana State Police said. Another 25 people were injured, some of them in critical condition, police said.
After accidents involving vehicles on the northbound and southbound lanes, some vehicles caught fire, police said. A tanker truck carrying a “dangerous liquid” is being removed and police said “additional casualties may be discovered”. State police urged anyone with a missing family member to contact the agency.
Aerial images shown on the state police’s Facebook page Many piles On Interstate 55, some cars and trucks appeared charred.
A mix of moisture and smoke in the air from wildland fires scattered across the Mississippi River valley toward Baton Rouge, La., caused dense fog, said Tyler Stanfield, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in New Orleans.
“It’s the perfect storm,” Mr. Stanfield said.
Although superfogs are unusual, they are not an unheard of phenomenon. New Orleans typically experiences a super fog twice a year. It is usually fueled by swamp fires, which are frequent in the region this year due to dry conditions, Mr. Stanfield said.
The fog started disappearing around 3 a.m. on Monday and thickened around sunrise, he said. Visibility for drivers was about an eighth of a mile.
State Police Sections of Interstates 10, 55 and 310 are closed He warned that “motorists should avoid the area if possible and use alternate routes” due to heavy fog on Monday morning. Interstate 10 reopened at 2:30 p.m., but portions of Interstate 55 remained closed Monday evening.
Most of the fog cleared by late afternoon, last lingering in the western suburbs of New Orleans, Mr. Stanfield said.