Truck driver Chase Ward was driving on Interstate 10 near New Orleans Tuesday when traffic came to a stop in a thick haze of wildfire smoke.
“There was zero visibility,” Ward told The Weather Channel.
A series of crashes on the road left at least one person dead.
Ward, on his way to make a delivery in Alabama, kept his seatbelt on, afraid he would become a victim. The smell of wildfire smoke from a nearby marsh fire hung thick in the air.
“I had to cut my AC off in the truck,” Ward said. “I had to make sure my windows were up. My eyes were watering, my throat was hurting. It’s just like being near a campfire and not being able to move out of the way of the smoke.”
New Orleans Police say the pileup involved 11 vehicles in three crashes on I-10 on the northeast side of the city. Eight people were injured and one man died after being taken to a hospital.
The first call about the crash came in to emergency services at 4:37 a.m. EDT.
Interstate 10 was closed in the New Orleans area following the incident. The National Weather Service issued a dense smoke advisory and also noted “limited fog” in the area.
The smoke had mostly cleared by noon but conditions remained hazy, according to the NWS. The interstate fully reopened on the eastbound side and partially on the westbound side.
Wednesday morning, fog once again combined with smoke from local fires generating what is known as “super fog.” The National Weather Service issued a dense fog advisory and Interstate 10 was closed. Officials said visibility was diminished to 100 feet. There were no immediate reports of crashes.
“In Tuesday’s case, smoke from a nearby fire was trapped close to the ground by an inversion,” Erdman said. “That’s a lid of warmer air just above the ground that commonly forms at night when winds are light and skies are relatively cloud-free and the ground radiates heat faster than the air above it.”
Officials advised motorists to avoid I-10 around the Michoud Boulevard area northeast of New Orleans. Three hours after the closure announcement, congestion had reached 10 miles in length according to the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.