High winds, blowing dust could affect travel in central Arizona

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PHOENIX -- Strong winds forecast through Thursday afternoon could result in blowing dust in parts of central Arizona and limit visibility on highways, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.

The National Weather Service issued a short-term forecast Thursday afternoon that called for winds of 15 to 25 mph with gusts in excess of 30 mph near Picacho Peak State Park, which is south of Casa Grande on the Interstate 10 corridor between Phoenix and Tucson.

ADOT has activated digital message boards on I-10 between Phoenix and New Mexico and on Interstate 8, alerting drivers to high winds and possibility of blowing dust.

The Arizona Department of Transportation urges drivers to avoid driving into a dust storm, which can often have near-zero visibility conditions. 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 from 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 seat belts 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, visit PullAsideStayAlive.org.

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