Friday, January 31, 2014

Strong winds, blowing dust could affect travel across Arizona today


Strong winds predicted for today could lead to difficult driving conditions along with periods of blowing dust and low visibility on highways across much of the state, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.

The National Weather Service in Phoenix has issued a blowing dust advisory until 6:00 pm for parts of central Arizona, including from Phoenix to Casa Grande. Areas of blowing dust and limited visibility have already been reported along Interstate 10 near Queen Creek Road.

ADOT warns drivers that breezy conditions could produce dust channels, which are localized areas of blowing dust where visibility can drop to nearly zero. This kind of wind and dust can occur in dust prone areas between Phoenix and Tucson, including I-10, I-8 and State Route 347.

Weather officials have also issued wind advisories for parts of northeast and southeast Arizona. One advisory in place until 7:00 pm includes most of I-40 between Flagstaff and New Mexico, while a second advisory also in place until 7:00 pm includes I-10 between Willcox and New Mexico.

The advisories forecast winds of 20 to 35 mph with gusts to 45 mph. Winds this strong can make driving difficult, especially for high profile vehicles.

Drivers are advised to stay alert and look out in all directions for blowing dust, especially in desert areas. ADOT urges drivers to avoid driving into a dust storm. Motorists play an important role in their own safety when driving during a dust storm. ADOT and the Arizona Department of Public Safety recommend the following driving tips when encountering a low-visibility dust storm:

Avoid driving into or through a dust storm.

If you encounter a dust storm, check traffic immediately around your vehicle (front, back and to the side) and begin slowing down.

Do not wait until poor visibility makes it difficult to safely pull off the roadway — do it as soon as possible. Completely exit the highway if you can, away from where other vehicles may travel.
Do not stop in a travel lane or in the emergency lane; look for a safe place to pull completely off the paved portion of the roadway.

Turn off all vehicle lights, including your emergency flashers.

Set your emergency brake and take your foot off the brake.

Stay in the vehicle with your seatbelts buckled and wait for the storm to pass.

Drivers of high-profile vehicles should be especially aware of changing weather conditions and travel at reduced speeds.

Be aware that any storm can cause power outages to overhead roadway lighting and traffic signals. Drive with caution and treat all intersections without signals as having stop signs in all directions.

For more information and driving tips, visit PullAsideStayAlive.org.

(Photo: Howard Waggner/Maricopa Community News)

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