By Brad Poole
TUCSON, Ariz (Reuters) - A dust storm in Arizona cut visibility to zero along Interstate 10 between Tucson and Phoenix on Tuesday, causing two pile-ups that killed one person and severely injured several others, a highway patrol spokesman said.
The first chain-reaction crash, in westbound lanes about 40 miles north of Tucson at 12:15 p.m, involved 16 vehicles, caused one death and injured 15 people, two of whom were listed in extremely critical condition.
About 90 minutes later, a second crash involving eight vehicles forced the closure of eastbound lanes of the interstate about 20 miles from the first pile-up, state Public Safety Department spokesman Bart Graves said.
No precise casualty figures were immediately available, but Graves said several people were seriously hurt in the second collision.
Blowing dust was a factor in both accidents and prevented a rescue helicopter from landing at either scene, he said.
"Deputies reported zero visibility when they arrived at the scene. There's still almost no visibility. The storm is just hovering around out there," Graves said at about 2:30 p.m..
Dust storms routinely plague the area near Picacho Peak, a state park in southern Arizona, said National Weather Service meteorologist Craig Shoemaker, who estimated sustained winds in the storm at 20 to 30 miles per hour, gusting up to 50 mph.
(Editing by Steve Gorman and Cynthia Johnston)