Sandstorm on Germany's autobahn kills 8; speed limit imposed

A dust storm blew over a portion of Germany’s autobahn with no speed limit on Friday. By the time the air cleared, 80 vehicles had piled up, eight people had died and more than 130 were injured. The road was strewn with some two-dozen cars and trucks on fire.

One witness described a “black wall of sand” sweeping onto the A19 highway near the Baltic Sea. How is that even possible? Well, despite the fact that Germany is not in the sand-blasted Middle East, dust storms are not uncommon in the northern part of the country. Extremely dry conditions matched with strong winds conspire to lift earth and sand from the ground and fling it all over. In this case, investigators are theorizing that winds faster than 50 m.p.h. blew desiccated material from nearby fields onto the highway in the form of a huge cloud. Drivers were either blinded, had trouble driving on the grainy material, or both.

After the accident, Germany imposed a speed limit of 80 k.m. per hour (about 50 m.p.h.) on that part of the autobahn. Here’s a video showing the vehicular destruction caused by the dust storm: