I-17 101 traffic interchange

Monsoon Awareness Week reminds Arizonans of severe weather dangers

Monsoon Awareness Week reminds Arizonans of severe weather dangers

June 12, 2017

PHOENIX – Coming soon: Spectacular sunsets and brief heat relief from monsoon moisture.

Also coming soon: Low- or no-visibility on roadways caused by dust storms.

Monsoon season is returning to Arizona and during Monsoon Awareness Week, June 12-16, the Arizona Department of Transportation is reminding drivers how to stay safe on roadways when dust storms arrive.

ADOT’s top tip: Do not drive into a dust storm. Towering, dense, blowing dust can drop visibility to zero, as if every motorist is driving blind. Just as dangerous are the small dust channels that can whip across roadways in an instant, affording drivers little or no opportunity to avoid them. In such events, ADOT has developed the following “Pull Aside, Stay Alive” dust storm safety driving tips, which can help travelers 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 seat belt 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.

ADOT uses an array of tools to alert motorists to severe weather events that can impact travel, including posting messages on overhead signs, the 511 travel information line and social media. 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 partnering agencies, to keep current information flowing to travelers.

That information will improve soon. Later this year construction is scheduled to begin on a first-of-its-kind dust detection zone on Interstate 10 between Eloy and Picacho. The $12.8 million project, funded in part by a FASTLANE grant from the Federal Highway Administration, includes placement of multiple short-range dust-detection units between mileposts 209-219, plus one long-range unit.

More information on dust storm safety can be found at PullAsideStayAlive.com and safety tips for driving in rainstorms can be found at azdot.gov/monsoon.

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.