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‘Super Fog’ Leads To Multiple Accidents In Florida

The accidents shut down 18 miles of the highway and resulted in at least three casualties Thursday morning.

A fiery explosion was captured on a Florida Department of Transportation camera during the early morning hours on Thursday. The terrifying scene came from early morning accidents involving more than a dozen vehicles on Interstate 95 near Edgewater, Florida, which is just northeast of Orlando.

The accidents shut down 18 miles of the highway and resulted in at least three casualties Thursday morning. According to troopers, the main contributing factor to the crashes was likely the result of what’s known as “super fog,” which may have been caused by a prescribed burn in the area overnight.

“Super fog forms when a mixture of smoke and moisture released from the damp smoldering organic material such as brush, leaves and trees, mixes with cooler, nearly saturated air,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Paul Walker. “Visibility is lowered to less than 10 feet. Under light wind conditions, super fog meanders through low-lying terrain such as creek beds, drainage ditches and canals. It often lingers until a breeze picks up.”

Prescribed burns are often used to remove fuel for possible future wildfires. In the Southeast, these prescribed burns are done, so that lightning strikes don’t set off a wildfire.

“This is a phenomenon that happens throughout central Florida with our weather,” Lt. Kim Montes, a spokesperson for the Florida Highway Patrol, said in a news conference.

The terrain in Edgewater is among the lowest in the entire county of Volusia, standing at only 3 feet above sea level, making this a common area where fog develops.

In a news conference, the Florida Highway Patrol confirmed that four separate crashes involving 11 vehicles occurred at 1:30 a.m. local time on the northbound lane of I-95 near mile marker 244. Of these four crashes, one person died, and multiple others were taken to a nearby hospital, including a child who is in stable condition.

On the southbound lane of I-95, there was one crash involving four tractor-trailers, a van and an SUV. Two people were pronounced dead at the scene and a couple of the tractor-trailers burned down in the crash, according to officials.

The tractor-trailer explosion was seen on a Florida Department of Transportation camera lighting up the dark night sky with red flames.

Interstate 95 is a north-south highway route along the U.S. East Coast, running from Maine to South Florida.

According to Florida Highway Patrol, the drivers who were able to talk to officials said that the visibility suddenly dropped to zero and they could not see inches in front of their vehicle.

“Some of those drivers pulled off in the shoulder, and some stopped in the road and that is where we had our chain-reaction crashes happen,” Montes said.

The Florida Highway Patrol, Division of Forestry, and the National Weather Service have a protocol for when these controlled burns occur. But, since the Florida Highway Patrol did not have advanced notice of this burn, no troopers were monitoring the area at the time of the accidents.

“Our goal is to always stay on top of that and monitor these types of fog and smoke issues so that we can try and be on top of that,” said Montes.

A dense fog advisory was issued for the area until the mid-morning hours on Thursday. After 9 a.m. local time, the fog began to lift in the area.

Interstate 95 will likely remain closed while the Florida Highway Patrol investigates the accidents, according to the Florida Department of Transportation.

“It is a reminder for anybody driving, especially in the overnight hours when we seem to have this problem, is that if you come upon this sudden smoke and fog mixture … the best thing to do is to activate your hazard lights, turn off your radio so you can hear, use the roadway markings as your guide if you cannot see the roadway and if you feel unsafe driving, pull off the road completely and then that way you’re not in the travel lane,” said Montes.

One of the worst accidents in U.S. history, a devastating pileup collision involving nearly 100 vehicles, was also blamed on a super fog event that occurred on Dec. 11, 1990 in Tennessee.

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Produced in association with AccuWeather.com.

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