About 42 cars were involved in a string of crashes along a four mile stretch of Highway 198 Tuesday morning forcing the closure of the eastbound lanes for nearly four hours, the California Highway Patrol said.

According to CHP Public Information Officer Adam Barresi, the first of 20 separate scattered crashes was reported near 14th Avenue around 7:45 a.m. Shortly after the initial two car non-injury collision, a chain reaction of crashes sparked among other drivers traveling behind on the hazy highway.

At the time of the initial crash, Barresi said visibility was down to 1,200 feet. Twenty-minutes later visibility dropped to 600 feet, he said.

“Fog definitely played a factor,” Barresi explained, adding that officers do not conduct pacing efforts unless visibility is below 500 feet. “However, drivers and unsafe speed caused the traffic incidents.”

Eastbound lanes between 18th Avenue in Lemoore to 14th Avenue in Armona remained closed until the scene was clear, CHP said. Travelers who were heading eastbound on the highway during the traffic backup were advised to take alternate routes.

Kings County Fire Department Battalion Chief Rick Smith, who was on scene Tuesday morning, said no one was seriously injured in the pile-ups.

Barresi said five people were transported to local hospital for unspecified minor injuries and several others were seeking their own medical attention.

“The fact that there were no serious injuries is great,” Barresi said.

Two Kings County Fire Department engines, a Lemoore Volunteer Fire Department engine, Lemoore police officers along with Kings County sheriff’s deputies were all on scene assisting in clearing up the roadway.

Scott Borgioli, meteorologist at WeatherAg, predicts the dense night and morning fog will likely remain in the Valley through at least Thursday.

CHP is advising motorists traveling in foggy conditions to slow down when their vision is impaired, to always have enough distance between their vehicle and the car in front of them and to ensure that their headlights are always on.

“Folks need to adjust their driving behavior for the environment that they are driving in,” Barresi said.

In December of 2012, The Sentinel reported on a similar incident involving multiple car pile-ups, including a big-rig crash, on the same highway. Five different collisions were reported and two people were seriously injured as a result, CHP said.

The most recent fog-related crash occurred earlier this year. In January, CHP said two cars and a big-rig collided on Highway 198 and Road 64. Two people reportedly suffered major injuries and were transported to the local hospital for treatment, CHP said.

The reporter can be reached at 583-2427 or swilliams@HanfordSentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter at ShannonW_HS.

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