Arizona has had a recent increase in Dust Storms “Haboobs” in the last couple of years. Many of these dust storms are un-expected and many drivers do not know how to handle being in a dust storm when they first encounter one.
Dust Storms have been known to show up at rapid speed with speeds upwards of over 50MPH. They can cause driver visibility to drop down to NOTHING in front of them and they have at times caused unfortunate and catastrophic injures on both roadways and highways.
Last year in Maricopa County, one “haboob” was measured at over a mile high and 100 miles wide
These are downright scary if you get stuck in one—take it from this writer, who knows personally. The best course is to watch the weather and forecast, and avoid it if you can. Often you can see these moving in from the southeast valley. If you see it, stay home, or get home quickly.
However, should you ever find yourself in a haboob dust storm, below are a few tips to help keep you safe:
- If you are in the middle of a storm, look around to see what vehicles may be around you so you can keep track of where they are while attempting to slow.
- DO NOT STOP in the travel lane or service lane. If caught in a “brownout”, do your best to maintain your lane and the same speed of travel (and pray others are doing the same)
- If you have the time or foresight, try to find a safe spot to pull over that does not OFF the paved portion of the roadway.
- Once parked, turn off all lights, including warning lights on your vehicle. (This will prevent drivers behind you from attempting to “follow you”, only to find out too late that you are stopped)
- Stay in your vehicle with seatbelt on and wait until the storm passes.
- Once the storm has passed safely get back onto the roadway to continue your commute.
I have encountered these before, and in heavy traffic, hope and pray that other drivers have seen these same safety rules.
Here’s hoping for a safe driving summer in Arizona!