CASA GRANDE, Ariz. -- Conditions along the I-10 headed east, Wednesday night, quickly turned from blue skies to the ominous cloud of brown Arizonans know all too well.
“It was just a wall of dust,” said Chelsie Bigger.
She and her colleague Ashley Rodriguez watched the storm roll in from the “Flying J” where they work, near Casa Grande.
“Dirt, thunder, lightning; it’s horrible,” said Bigger. “I try to hide…I have major panic attacks when it comes through.”
Bigger told 3TV she refuses to drive in the dust. ADOT advises pulling off the roadway before visibility becomes an issue. Experts say don’t stop in the emergency lane, but rather look for a safe place to pull completely off the paved portion of the roadway.
Turn off all vehicle lights, including emergency flashers according to ADOT.
“It seems like dust storms over the last couple of years have been getting worse,” said Eric Scheidemantel who frequently drives between Phoenix and Tucson.
Gary Woodall of the National Weather Service says the long-term drought is partly to blame.
“For last several years, we have had conditions that are really, unfortunately, favorable for dust storms,” said Woodall.
Using high resolution forecast models, the National Weather Service, increases its staff during monsoon season to help keep everyone safe.
“That’s one of our most important jobs, protecting life and property from the affects of hazardous weather,” said Woodall.
However, Woodall says it’s difficult to precisely predict what this monsoon season will bring.
“It’s really hard to say, hard to forecast a long way in advance,” said Woodall.
However, one thing is certain.
“It’s beginning,” said Ashley Rodriguez. “It’s just barely beginning.”