Monsoon Awareness Week reminds Arizonans of dust storm dangers

Drivers are reminded to ‘Pull Aside, Stay Alive’

PHOENIX – Towering haboobs, dense dust storms, flash flooding and blinding dust channels. These are some of the dangers Arizona drivers face during monsoon season.

The Arizona Department of Transportation, Arizona Department of Public Safety, National Weather Service and other agencies are reminding drivers during Monsoon Awareness Week how to stay safe on roadways when dust storms arrive.

The top tip: Do not drive into a dust storm. Dense, swirling dust can drop visibility to zero, as if every motorist is driving with a blindfold. Do you want to be on a road with drivers who can’t see? Remember: “Pull Aside, Stay Alive.”

However, avoiding a dust storm is not always possible. Fast-moving dust channels can whip up dust alongside highways without warning. These smaller events can be more dangerous than 3,000-foot haboobs because drivers often do not have a chance to avoid them. ADOT has developed the following “Pull Aside, Stay Alive” dust storm safety driving tips, which can help motorists survive a storm:

  • Avoid driving into or through a dust storm.
  • If you encounter a dust storm, immediately check traffic 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.
  • 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. You do not want other vehicles approaching from behind to use your lights as a guide, possibly crashing into your parked vehicle.
  • 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.

While this week marks the official beginning of monsoon season, blowing dust is a year-round driving danger. The occasional winter dust storm and recent closures of Interstate 10 near the Arizona-New Mexico state line because of swirling dust from fallow farmland are proof of that.

To alert drivers of approaching storms, ADOT employs an array of tools, including posting messages to overhead highway signs, the 511- travel information line and social media, including Twitter (@ArizonaDOT) for up-to-the-minute conditions. During dust storms, ADOT’s Traffic Operations Center staff is in constant communication with crews and law enforcement officers in the field, as well as partner agencies, to keep current information flowing to motorists.

More information on dust storm safety can be found at PullAsideStayAlive.com and MonsoonSafety.org.

Real-time highway conditions are available on ADOT’s Travel Information Center at az511.gov, by calling 511 and through ADOT’s Twitter feed @ArizonaDOT.