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By: Terry Ward on 06/11/2012
The Arizona Department of Transportation is emphasizing driver education as it prepares to launch a ‘Dust Storm Awareness’ campaign. Blowing dust is quite often a main weather feature in the desert during the summer monsoon. And as KJZZ’s Terry Ward reports, they can be deadly.
Extreme dust storms can happen during an Arizona summer, like this one seen from the East Valley. (Photo by Terry Ward - KJZZ)
TERRY WARD: Monsoon season begins June 15. So designated by the National Weather Service and it extends through late September. Late afternoon thunderstorms are common during the summer months and those storms can produce lightning, strong winds and brief, heavy rain. ADOT spokesman Doug Nintzel says being on the highway is probably the most dangerous place you can be when visibility drops. He says the hardest part for a motorist is knowing when a situation is about to turn dangerous and getting off the road.
DOUG NINTZEL: You’re driving out there and you’re scanning the horizon, you’re looking for that dust storm that’s up ahead. And don’t take the chance. If there’s any way that you can stop at that point, find the nearest exit and get completely off the highway. Really, that’s what you’re going to be looking to do.
WARD: Nintzel says if you do get caught in a dust storm, you should get off the pavement as far as you can. Turn your lights off and make sure your brake lights are off.
NINTZEL: Getting your foot off the brake pedal because you don’t want your brake lights on and have a driver behind you mistake you for a vehicle that’s still in the travel lane because we know that people get themselves into those types of situations.
WARD: The most dangerous highways tend to be Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Tucson. There’s a lot of open desert in that area and dust storms can arise quickly and they can be severe.
Updated 6/12/2012 at 2:37 p.m.