Announcing the top 5 Haboob Haikus...

Announcing the top 5 Haboob Haikus...


Announcing the top 5 Haboob Haikus...

Announcing the top 5 Haboob Haikus...

June 29, 2012

The wait is over ... today's the day we announce the top Haboob Haikus as voted for by the public.

Before you watch the video above to see if your favorite was selected, we just want to give a big thanks to everyone who participated in the 2012 Haboob Haiku challenge!

It was a very close race and we appreciate ALL the poets out there who helped us spread the message: Pull Aside, Stay Alive.

Vote for your favorite Haboob Haiku

Vote for your favorite Haboob Haiku


Vote for your favorite Haboob Haiku

Vote for your favorite Haboob Haiku

June 21, 2012
Blog Default

When Haboob Haikus made the news all the way in New Zealand, we started to realize this Twitter challenge of ours was really taking off!

Who could have guessed that #HaboobHaiku would end up yielding more than 500 stories in worldwide media outlets?

It was covered in the Arizona Republic, Washington Post, New York Daily News and the Huffington Post – not to mention being discussed on CNN, the Weather Channel and NPR’s Morning Edition.

The results were, to quote the New York Daily News (@NYDNBooks), “sort of awesome.”

They were even talking about haboobs in Minnesota – a state where, apparently, they don’t deal with much dust because local readers were instead asked for their best humidity haikus!

Besides the media coverage we heard plenty of great feedback from the Twittersphere … @BlazingLily said, “#HaboobHaiku just might be the best hashtag ever.”

We agree, because #HaboobHaiku helped us spread our dust storm safety message far and wide!

Which brings us to the haikus themselves … today we’re asking you to help us pick a favorite!

But, don’t worry; you won’t have to go through the hundreds of poems we received on Twitter, Facebook, e-mail and the blog. We already read every single one and managed to narrow it down to the top 15 (a difficult task ... they were all great!).

You can vote once per day through next Thursday and we’ll announce the winner on Friday, June 29. We can’t promise a prize, but the winning Haboob Haiku will be featured in a special way!

Vote for your favorite Haboob Haiku! free polls 

Dust storm danger: Will you know what to do?

Dust storm danger: Will you know what to do?


Dust storm danger: Will you know what to do?

Dust storm danger: Will you know what to do?

June 15, 2012

Now that our Haboob Haiku challenge is coming to an end, who out there is ready for the next transportation themed poetry contest?

Got any “HOV-Lane Limericks”? How about an “Ode to the Road” or, maybe a “Cement Sonnet”?

On second thought, never mind – those are all terrible ideas.

Besides, we’re pretty certain nothing is going to top the impressive response we got with #HaboobHaiku!

Here’s a big thank you to everyone who submitted poems on Twitter, Facebook and the blog. You helped us spread the word on dust storm safety, which is exactly what we had hoped would happen (although, we admit we had no idea the message would go so far and so quickly!).

We had a lot of fun with this and hope you did, too, but as we wrap things up this week we want to remind everyone of just how dangerous haboobs can be. We’re headed into monsoon season (the official start is today) and those dusty, unpredictable storms are on their way.

So, before the next one hits, we invite you to take a look at the powerful video above. It illustrates why we all need to be aware of the havoc these storms can bring to our roads.

Stay safe and don’t forget: Pull Aside, Stay Alive.

The value of social media (aka why did we #HaboobHaiku)

The value of social media (aka why did we #HaboobHaiku)


The value of social media (aka why did we #HaboobHaiku)

The value of social media (aka why did we #HaboobHaiku)

June 14, 2012

Photo courtesy of Michael Olbinski
This massive haboob hit downtown Phoenix last year.

By Nicole Sherbert
ADOT Assistant Communication Director

We've been pretty entrenched in social media this week so we thought we'd take this opportunity to answer a question we get asked from time to time... 

Why, as a state agency, does ADOT commit resources to social media?

If you're an ardent ADOT Blog follower, you know that the easy answer to that question is education.

Whether we’re educating users about their transportation system, helping our customers find needed services, explaining and soliciting input on transportation planning, showing what goes into building a freeway, or trying to explain succinctly how transportation is funded in Arizona, our primary goal is to educate and inform our readers so they’ll have a better understanding of how their tax dollars are spent.

But the potential of social media goes so much further than us delivering our message...

Building public awareness

You’re reading this blog, so chances are you’ve seen our Haboob Haiku challenge this week.

By all accounts, it’s been an incredibly successful effort – 100s of tweets and retweets, national media coverage, record blog views and nearly 2,000 PSA views on YouTube. But why did we do it?

As much fun as we’ve had besting each other’s creativity around the office and following the #HaboobHaiku trend on Twitter, the answer is actually very simple: It got people talking about the dangers of driving in dust storms.

Dust storms are a very real threat to public safety in Arizona. According to the 2010 Crash Facts (the most recent year available), a statewide total of 48 crashes occurred during "blowing sand, soil, dirt.” Those crashes resulted in two fatalities and 41 injuries.

While our haikus won’t prevent all future visibility-related crashes, the buzz behind them has -- at the very least -- helped build awareness about dust storm safety tips and introduced the concept of Pull Aside, Stay Alive.

Building an audience

Contrary to what people might jokingly think, ADOT does not go around closing roads just because we have a lot of orange traffic cones. If ADOT has closed a road, I can absolutely promise you there is a very important reason -- and it's a reason we want everyone to know about! The more people who like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, watch our YouTube channel and read our blog, the more people we are able to inform about major travel impacts or safety advisories when they occur.

For example…last year, ADOT had to close Interstate 10 for ten hours and the only way around was a 67-mile, 2-lane-highway detour. Not exactly the kind of message we enjoy delivering (and, just for the record, a very extreme example).

In the past we would have had to depend almost entirely on traditional media outlets to deliver that message for us. And while we will always rely heavily on and continue to partner with the media, social media allows us to target that message, reach out to our users directly on a strategic time frame, and rely on our social network to spread the word among their users and friends.

Think of the old adage, "If a tree falls in the forest and no one's there to hear it, does it make a sound?" Well, if ADOT posts an important public safety warning and no one's there to read it...?

There are a lot of factors that go into building an audience, the most important of which is meaningful and engaging interaction (#HaboobHaiku anyone?).

Emergency Communication (Here’s where you come in!)

So, social media is a great tool for building buzz, interest and engagement over time. We aggressively launched the monsoon safety awareness campaign Monday morning and it steadily built momentum through our social and traditional media outlets reaching national media attention late Wednesday afternoon (incredible success, but that's still three days, folks).

But what happens when the dust storm actually hits -- with little to no warning?

The National Weather Service predicts that Arizona will experience three major dust events this season. As soon as that dust advisory is issued, you can bet ADOT will start tweeting and posting both the advisory and our driving tips over at

This is where you come in and it's why we build our audience during the awareness phase: so when there is an emergency, you are there to help us spread the word. When you see that Facebook travel advisory post, please share it. As you're skimming through your Twitter feed and notice something seemingly urgent, take an extra second to hit retweet!

How ADOT deals with dust

How ADOT deals with dust


How ADOT deals with dust

How ADOT deals with dust

June 13, 2012

Dust storm ahead!

Since yesterday we’ve received a number of really inspired Haboob Haikus. We are overwhelmed by the creativity that’s out there!

Have you had the chance to submit a poem yet?

Wait … before you hurry off to put the finishing touches on your masterpiece, we’d like to first share a little more about how ADOT deals with dust.

Like we said earlier this week, dust storms are ultimately an act of nature – they’re difficult to predict and control. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to minimize at least the preventable dust.

We shared some tips for driving in dust on Monday (the most important one being, avoid driving through a dust storm) but it seems we talk about dust a lot around here. So for today’s blog post we wanted to recap some of the things we’ve discussed before about how ADOT works to mitigate against blowing dust year round.

First off, Arizona is in the desert (a fairly obvious point, we know), so dust and sand is an issue we always consider, especially during construction of a project.

The amount of dust on a construction site is constantly and closely monitored. Dust levels must meet ADOT and Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) policy and standards. Contractors can even be fined if there’s too much dust on projects.

Before construction even begins, water is applied to the site to not only help with compaction, but also to keep dust at bay. During construction, ADOT will often “seed” temporarily exposed dirt to encourage vegetation growth and prevent blowing dust.

Once construction is completed, ADOT will plant new vegetation in the areas that were disturbed, which, you guessed it cuts down on dust. In addition to plants, ADOT uses landform graphics to not only make a nice-looking landscape, but also to mitigate dust.

Finally, paving roads in and of itself is also a dust control effort … imagine how much dust our cars would kick up if roads weren’t paved.

The ability to reduce natural dust impact is, of course, beyond the control of ADOT. Private landowners play a role in dust control and so do the region’s policy makers. ADOT has and will continue to work with these stakeholders on the issue of reduced visibility created by dust storms.

ADOT launches "Haboob Haiku" challenge

ADOT launches "Haboob Haiku" challenge


ADOT launches "Haboob Haiku" challenge

ADOT launches "Haboob Haiku" challenge

June 12, 2012
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Taken last July, this photo shows an oncoming Haboob.

Our mission this week is massive and we’ve got to admit, we are going to need a little help.

We’re trying to spread the word on monsoon and dust storm safety and we want to reach as many people as possible, which is where you come in!

After kicking things off yesterday with some driving tips and that cautionary video, we’re launching a “Haboob Haiku” challenge on Twitter today and we’d like you to help us educate others.

Let us explain.

Besides being fun to say, ‘haboob’ is another word for a dust storm and a Haiku is a type of poetry that conforms to a certain syllable structure.

Put them together and you’ve got a Haboob Haiku!

Haikus are traditionally written in three lines – the first line consists of five syllables, the second line has seven and the third line ends with five. Usually these poems are focused on just about any subject, but for our challenge we want you to stick with Haboobs, dust storms and our safety theme (remember “Pull Aside, Stay Alive” from yesterday’s post?).

Ready for a few examples to get things started?

Dust cloud approaching:
The air becomes thick and brown.
Pull over and wait

Haboob engulfs you –
Vision obscured and hazy –
Exit the roadway.

Drive with care in dust
Pull aside and stay alive
Wait for dust to pass

Dust storms mean danger
Zero visibility
Pull over and wait

We’d like you to post your Haboob Haiku creations on Twitter and include the hashtag #HaboobHaiku.

Be sure to share with your friends and let them know what it’s all about. After all, our No. 1 goal is safety and we want to reach as many Arizona drivers as we can to help them prepare for the monsoon and dust storm season ahead ... but who says we can’t have a little fun, too? We're excited to see what you all come up with!!

Pull Aside • Stay Alive

Pull Aside • Stay Alive


Pull Aside • Stay Alive

Pull Aside • Stay Alive

June 11, 2012
Blog Default

At ADOT we always want to give drivers a warning of what’s coming up on the road ahead...

Whether it’s an impending freeway closure or a new type of traffic signal, we try our very best to get the word out ahead of time so motorists know what to expect.

But, sometimes something will impact our roads (and the ability to drive them) quickly and without much notice, making it all the more difficult to get the message out.

Dust storms absolutely fall under this category.

As you can see in the video above, these weather phenomena arrive suddenly and bring a blinding dust that can quickly reduce visibility to near zero. They make driving conditions hazardous and can cause crashes that may involve chain collisions and massive pileups on highways.

Ultimately, dust storms are an act of nature. While we don’t get much advance notice that they’re on the way, we can at least learn about these storms and know what to do when we encounter one.

Which brings us to this week’s theme: Pull Aside • Stay Alive.

You’ll hear that a lot from us over the next few days as we devote the entire week to monsoon and dust storm awareness.

That’s right ... this whole week will be focused on staying safe during the monsoon and dust storm season. We’ve got a lot planned for you here on the blog and on our Facebook and Twitter pages, too, so you’ll want to stay tuned!

But, first up, we’ve got some tips for drivers. Motorists play an important role in their own safety and the safety of others when operating vehicles during a dust storm ... here’s what to do when encountering a low- or no-visibility dust storm:

  • Avoid driving into or through a dust storm. 
  • 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.
  • If you encounter a dust storm, check traffic immediately around your vehicle (front, back and to the side) and begin slowing down.
  • 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.
  • Stop the vehicle in a position ensuring it is a safe distance from the main roadway and away from where other vehicles may travel.
  • 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.
  • A driver’s alertness and safe driving ability is still the No. 1 factor to prevent crashes.

Drivers play an important role in wildfire prevention

Drivers play an important role in wildfire prevention


Drivers play an important role in wildfire prevention

Drivers play an important role in wildfire prevention

May 24, 2012

Drivers can help protect Arizona scenery by preventing wildfires.

A three-day weekend is coming up and that means a lot of people will be hitting the road…

It’s the perfect time to take a road trip, but it’s also wildfire season and we’ve all got to be a bit more careful in this dry, desert climate we live.

Earlier this week we provided some tips that focused on how you can safely drive (and pull your vehicle over) in areas with reduced visibility due to smoke. But, today we’re going to talk about what drivers can do to actually prevent fires from starting in the first place.

Yes, drivers play an important role in wildfire prevention!

Over half of the wildland fires in Arizona each year are human caused, according to State Forester Scott Hunt with the Arizona State Forestry Division.

“Roadside fires are common in Arizona and most are avoidable,” Hunt said. “The danger of roadside fires starting from a car pulling a trailer with improperly adjusted safety chains or the careless disposal of smoking materials is very real.”

Here are a few things you can do to reduce the threat of fire along Arizona’s roads:

  • Never park your vehicle on dry grass, or drive through tall grass
  • Never throw a lighted cigarette out the window of a vehicle
  • When pulling a trailer, attach safety chains securely; loose chains can drag on the pavement and cause sparks, igniting roadside fires
  • Do not park where vegetation is touching the underside of your vehicle
  • Look behind you before driving away to check for signs of a developing fire
  • Observe “Red Flag” warnings. Warnings are issued when weather conditions are conducive to the easy start and rapid spread of wildfires
  • Always use a spark arrestor in internal combustion engines
  • Driving into smoke can be dangerous; avoid active fires by calling 511 or log onto ADOT’s Traveler Information site at to seek alternate routes.

For more on wildfires, visit, the state’s online source for real-time emergency updates, preparedness and hazard information. Another excellent source for wildfire information is, which is supported by wildland fire agencies in Arizona as part of an interagency collaboration.

Wildfire season is here: tips for driving in reduced visibility

Wildfire season is here: tips for driving in reduced visibility


Wildfire season is here: tips for driving in reduced visibility

Wildfire season is here: tips for driving in reduced visibility

May 22, 2012
Blog Default

Late last week a travel alert went out to warn drivers of some heavy smoke present near SR 69 due to the Gladiator Fire burning near Crown King.

ADOT advised drivers to slow down and remain alert in the area because the smoke was, at the time, reducing visibility. As of this morning, fire crews are continuing to battle the blaze (along with a few others around the state) and are making progress.

Unfortunately, it seems wildfire season is already here…

We thought now would be a good time to share some tips for safely driving (and pulling over) in areas with reduced visibility. Maybe you’ve heard them before, but they’re worth reviewing and remembering:

  • Check traffic immediately around your vehicle (front, back and to the side) and begin slowing down.
  • Do not stop in the travel lane unless the vehicle traffic in front of you has come to a stop.
  • Look for a safe place to pull completely off the paved portion of the roadway.
  • Stop the vehicle in a position ensuring it is a safe distance from the main roadway and not near where any vehicles may travel.
  • Turn off all vehicle lights.
  • Set your emergency brake and take your foot off the brake.
  • Stay in your vehicle and keep your seat belts on.
  • Wait for the visibility to improve before re-entering the roadway.

One more thing … you always can stay up-to-date on the latest highway conditions (fire-related or otherwise) around the state by visiting or by calling 511.

Sand barrel crash cushions designed to take an impact

Sand barrel crash cushions designed to take an impact


Sand barrel crash cushions designed to take an impact

Sand barrel crash cushions designed to take an impact

May 16, 2012

Sand barrel crash cushions along I-10 in Phoenix near the Deck Park Tunnel

What’s filled with sand, weighs up to 1,400 pounds and is designed to save lives?

If you answered a sand barrel crash cushion, you’re correct!

And, if you didn’t have a guess then you’re probably asking: What’s a sand barrel crash cushion?

Let us explain…

Like their name implies, sand barrel crash cushions are filled with sand, shaped like a barrel and work to provide a “cushion” if a vehicle were to crash into one.

A sand barrel crash cushion works similarly to the way an attenuator functions (regular readers of this blog already know all about fixed attenuators and truck-mounted attenuators).

You’ve probably seen them several times on the side of the road. They’re placed strategically in front of fixed objects (signs, poles, etc.) and will take the impact if a driver runs into them. For a brief explanation of how this happens, let’s take a look at this excerpt from our blog post on fixed attenuators:

This is by no means a physics blog, but a basic grasp of how energy works is needed to understand attenuators …

A vehicle’s speed and size determine how much energy it has. Normally, this energy is dissipated by your brakes, which burn off that energy slowly, allowing you to come to a safe stop.

But, if a vehicle stops by crashing into a wall, the energy is dispersed very suddenly, resulting in a car that’s crushed. Attenuators won't exactly give a soft landing, but they do work to dissipate the energy slowly like your brakes do.

A little more on sand barrel crash cushions…
They can be set up in different configurations depending on speed limits and the specifics of the location.

One common setup consists of 12 barrels (although, there are numerous variations). You’ll often see four of the barrels lined up single file. Behind those first four, there typically will be four more rows with barrels lined up two by two.

The weight of each barrel varies – they weigh 200, 400, 700 or 1,400 lbs. The lightest barrels are placed in front and they get progressively heavier to handle the impact, absorb and dissipate the energy of a crash.

One more cool fact about these barrels: they come with inserts, which help crews fill them with sand accurately. Depending on the desired weight (they’re very light to begin with – before the sand goes in), they’ll use an insert designed to take up some of the space within the barrel. Crews then just have to fill with sand to the appropriate level to make sure it’s heavy enough.

And, just to give you an idea of how frequently they’re used – there’s about 4,000 barrels in the Phoenix district alone, which at 12 barrels a setup, translates to about 333 locations!