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Preparing for Monsoon 2019: Dangerous dust storms

The good news is most dust storms blow through an area quickly. The bad news is that they can cause serious and sometimes fatal collisions on the roads.

Dust storms are a hugely underrated killer in Arizona. They start with a typical monsoon storm. These downdraft winds create outflow. Downdrafts hit the surface and spread out. They pick up that soil and dirt near the surface and send it flowing along the roadways.

Prior to the monsoon ramping up, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) is working on stabilizing the soil in areas most prone to dust storms to mitigate blowing dust.

Daniel Czecholinski, ADEQ’s air quality division director says, “We identify parcels along I-10 that cause blowing dust issues. Once we identify them, we hire a contractor to apply environmentally friendly soil stabilizer to the soil that will mitigate the blowing dust along I-10.”

Dust storms can be up to 100 miles wide and a mile high. These dust storms can reduce visibility to nearly zero in just seconds.

What should you do if you encounter a dust storm? Pull your vehicle off to the shoulder, put the vehicle in park to not confuse drivers behind you, and turn off all lights to avoid being rear ended.  

ADEQ hopes that soil stabilizers will not only make the roads safer but the air, as well.

 Czecholinski says “We’re doing it for a couple of reasons – not only for blowing dust along the freeway, but also for a public health benefit, so that people will not be breathing the blowing dust during the monsoon season.”

With any visibly dangerous dust storm, pull aside to stay alive, and always wait the dust storm out.

Stephanie Weaver

Stephanie Weaver is a weather anchor and reporter at News 4 Tucson.

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