Blowing dust, gusty winds expected as front moves through Arizona; high pollution advisory in effect

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by azfamily.com

3TV team coverage

Posted on March 26, 2014 at 7:22 AM

Updated Friday, Mar 28 at 12:34 PM

VALLEYWIDE -- Blowing dust is likely when winds kick up Wednesday afternoon when a storm system moves through Arizona.

Mother Nature smacked the East Valley with an unseasonably early dust storm Tuesday evening. The storm was the kind that is most common during the monsoon, which doesn't start until June and runs through the end of September.

While blowing dust is expected with Wednesday's winds, it won't be quite like those monsoon dust storms that often roll in with a wall of dust. Those systems tend to move through rather quickly. That probably won't be the case Wednesday.

Once winds pick up later in the day, the effects will probably be "a little bit more widespread and longer lasting," 3TV meteorologist April Warnecke explained.

"When you get a dust storm like we had yesterday, it really drops the visibility, but it moves through and then it's done," she said. "Today, what we're looking at are winds that are going to not just kick up, but stay very strong throughout the afternoon hours."

The Valley could see gusty winds between 25 and 35 mph, with stronger gusts of up to 45 mph possible. The National Weather Service issued wind and blowing dust advisories for the Valley. Both will be in effect all afternoon and into the night -- 1 p.m.-8 p.m.

With blowing dusts comes the potential of severely reduced visibility. The NWS says visibility could be less than two miles in many areas and even worse along some parts Interstate 10 and Interstate 8 between here and Southern California.

The winds also will make travel difficult for drivers of high-profile vehicles.

The rain that is part of the storm system will dissipate by the time the front reaches Arizona. What does make it into Arizona will stay to the north. That means we probably won't get much -- if any -- rain to tamp down the dust. Chances of rain in the Valley are just 10 percent.

"We're looking at dry, dusty, windy conditions for today," Warnecke said.

While we probably won't get any rain with this storm system, we will see some slightly cooler temperatures. Plan on 83 today and mid to high 70s Thursday and Friday.

A high pollution advisory is in effect Wednesday because of the potential for blowing dust.

Regulators say people with respiratory problems should avoid outdoor activities. Other recommended steps include avoiding the use of leaf blowers and off-highway vehicles.
 
High pollution advisories are issued when particulate matter levels are expected to exceed federal health standards for air quality. 

It's not yet clear if that advisory will be extended into Thursday.

Get the latest forecast for your neighborhood

Driving safety tips
"Pull Aside, Stay Alive"

Drivers are advised to stay alert and look out in all directions because strong winds can result in sudden periods of limited or zero visibility due to blowing dust, especially in desert areas. Motorists play an important role in their own safety when driving during a dust storm.

ADOT and the Arizona Department of Public Safety recommend the following driving tips when encountering a low-visibility dust storm:

- Avoid driving into or through a dust storm.

- If you encounter a dust storm, check traffic immediately 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, away from where other vehicles may travel.

- 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.

- 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.

- Be aware that any storm can cause power outages to overhead roadway lighting and traffic signals.

- Drive with caution and treat all intersections without signals as having stop signs in all directions.
For more information and driving tips, please visit PullAsideStayAlive.org.

For the most current information about highway closures and restrictions statewide, visit ADOT's Travel Information Site at az511.gov or call 511.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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