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Smoke, Fog Cause Fiery Pileups On I-55 In Louisiana

Written by on October 23, 2023

There are reports of deaths and injuries after a series of pileups related to smoke and fog on Interstate 55 in Louisiana.

Louisiana State Police spokesperson Sgt. Kate Stegall told weather.com in a phone call that there are multiple crashes in both directions on I-55, with multiple vehicles involved. One of the accidents was a chain reaction crash in Manchac in Tangipahoa Parish.

S​tegall said she could not immediately confirm how many people may have been injured or killed.

Driver Christopher Vanacor described the scene in an interview with weather.com this afternoon.

“I saw multiple, multiple, multiple cars just crushed, 18 wheelers that you could see were set ablaze,” Vanacor said.

“The fog was so dense, it was super, super thick. You could probably only see 10 feet in front of you. It was very, very scary to say the least because, you know, just as much as you can only see 10 feet in front of you, you can only see about 10 to 15 feet behind you. So you didn’t know what was coming up from behind.”

V​anacor was able to safely exit the interstate, but he continued to hear the crashes happening.

A person sits on a black truck surrounded by crashed vehicles in one of several pileups on Interstate 55 west of New Orleans, Louisiana, on Monday, Oct. 23, 2023. (Gabi Guidry via Facebook)
A person sits on a black truck surrounded by crashed vehicles in one of several pileups on Interstate 55 west of New Orleans, Louisiana, on Monday, Oct. 23, 2023.(Gabi Guidry via Facebook)

St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff Mike Tregre said officials were working to bring in school buses to transport about 100 people stranded on the interstate, according to NOLA.com.

T​he smoke, from wildfires burning in marshes, could be seen and smelled in New Orleans.

“Smoke from the marsh fires was trapped by a temperature inversion in the atmosphere after sunset on Sunday,” weather.com digital meteorologist Chris Dolce said. “That smoke then combined with developing fog overnight, creating what’s sometimes called “superfog,” which can cause drastically reduced visibility for motorists.”

The conditions affected miles of I-55 northwest of New Orleans between Ponchatoula and LaPlace.

This kind of combination has been a hazard for motorists in the past, including in Florida in March 2022.

“Winds speeds might increase some for tonight and early Tuesday, which would limit the development of another round of fog, but smoke from the fires could still be around,” Dolce said.

Another fire nearby in Lafitte is also sending smoke into the area. This fire was reported at 52% containment Sunday night, according to WVUE-TV.

A dense fog advisory was in effect until 10 a.m. local time Monday for portions of southeast Louisiana and coastal Mississippi. Visibility was one-quarter to one-half mile in some locations.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service, which was overseeing the fire, is unable to reach the area with fire trucks because it’s surrounded by water, WDSU-TV reported. The Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans has been pumping water into the area to fight the fire, the report added.



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