HANFORD — Dense fog and speeding motorists Tuesday morning caused a 50-vehicle pileup on Highway 198 between Hanford and Lemoore, along with dozens of other crashes.
Officer John Tyler, a spokesman for the CHP's Hanford area office, said the initial crash occurred around 8:25 a.m. on westbound Highway 198 and 16th Avenue. Tyler said the crash caused traffic to back up for more than four miles, and led to a chain reaction of collisions.
“Every single one of these collisions was caused by people driving too fast for the conditions,” Tyler said. “This wasn’t a single 50-car pile-up. This was multiple collisions separated by seconds or minutes.”
The CHP had not determined Tuesday how many collisions took place or the exact number of vehicles. Tyler said more than 50 vehicles may have been involved.
The crash caused westbound traffic to back up to 12th Avenue and prompted officials to close the highway between 13th and 16th avenues. Officials worked into Tuesday afternoon to clear vehicles from the roadway and remove debris. The road had reopened by about 2 p.m.
Tyler said fewer than 10 people were taken to area hospitals for minor injuries. Amanda Jaurigui, a spokeswoman for Adventist Health, said six patients were admitted at Adventist Medical Center in Hanford for injuries from the crash.
About 100 people who were involved in crashes and not injured were taken to the Hanford Civic Auditorium to speak to officers. Tyler said anyone involved in the incident who has not spoken to an officer can contact the Hanford area CHP office at 582-0231.
Tyler said drivers need to slow down and use their headlights when driving in foggy conditions. Because it’s impossible to see through heavy fog, he said, drivers must account for unknown hazards in the road ahead.
“Everybody who thought it was OK to go 60 in the fog found out that it’s not OK,” Tyler said.
The pileup on Highway 198 was just one of many incidents reported around Kings County on Tuesday.
Around 7:22 a.m., the CHP responded to a crash on northbound Highway 41 south of the eastbound Highway 198 ramp. Tyler said a southbound big rig turned left across the northbound lane to access the ramp onto Highway 198.
Another big rig driving northbound at speeds unsafe for the conditions crashed into the first big rig. Less than a minute later, a white Ford F-250 rear-ended the northbound big rig. A short time later, a black BMW crashed into the truck.
“Unsafe speed was the cause of all of those collisions,” Tyler said.
Kings County routinely sees a spike in traffic accidents during winter fog. A similar crash occurred on Feb. 3, 2015, on eastbound Highway 198 at 14th Avenue. The CHP said a two-car crash sparked a chain of crashes involving 42 vehicles and spanning four miles.
On Jan. 28, 2016, the CHP responded to more than a dozen fog-related crashes within the span of about an hour.
David Spector, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Hanford, said Tuesday’s thick fog was the result of a strong “surface inversion,” which means the air is warmer than the ground. Spector said the phenomenon traps the fog at lower levels.
The weather service issued a dense fog advisory Tuesday due to visibilities of a quarter mile or less. Officials extended the advisory until 1 p.m. after the dense fog persisted through the morning.
Visibility dropped as low as 0.12 miles in Hanford and Lemoore. Spector said heavy fog in the Fresno area burned off by mid-morning.
More patchy dense fog is expected Wednesday morning before 10 a.m. The weather service is forecasting rain later in the day, with showers continuing through Friday night.