New dust storm warning system announced

Posted: Updated:
Dust storm rolls into the Valley Dust storm rolls into the Valley
(3TV/CBS 5) -

You can expect fewer “alerts” on your phone next monsoon season, thanks to changes being put in place by the National Weather Service. 

In an announcement made this week, the National Weather Service in Phoenix said the change will help avoid confusion and help people be better prepared for dust storms. 

MOBILE/APP USERS:  Click here to see Aaron Kluth's image of a dust storm hitting the San Tan Valley

Dust storms have become more common over the years in Arizona, thanks in part to drought conditions. We see them every year during monsoon season, often hitting the Valley during the evening commute when more people are on the road. Dust storms bring reduced visibility and sometimes lead to crashes across both urban and rural parts of our state.   

But because counties in Arizona are so big, we often get weather alerts for dust rolling into parts of Maricopa County that may not impact where you live in the Valley. But that will change with new polygon warnings. The new system will apply specifically to dust storm warnings, with the goal of reducing the number of cell phone alerts that are sent out. This would mean the NWS would be able to better target the people directly threatened by a dust storm. 

According to NWS, “a polygon-based Dust Storm Warning will be issued when widespread or localized blowing dust is forecast to suddenly reduce visibility to less than one-quarter mile with sustained winds greater than 25 mph, resulting in dangerous and life-threatening travel conditions.” If those same conditions are forecast for a longer amount of time, generally more than 90 minutes, then a Blowing Dust Warning will be issued for a larger zone instead of a polygon. NWS calls it a huge service improvement for offices in Arizona and the Desert Southwest. 

Basically, it better targets a more specific population that’s actually in the threat area. 

MOBILE/APP USERS:  Click here to see the National Weather Service's explanation of new Dust Warnings and Advisories

The change will take effect in January and include areas covered by the National Weather Service offices in both Phoenix and Tucson.

You can always find the latest weather alerts on our website azfamily.com and through our free mobile app. 

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Click/tap here to download the free azfamily mobile app.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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