Windy forecast spawns blowing dust warnings

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by 3TV and azfamily.com

3TV team coverage

Posted on November 15, 2013 at 6:37 AM

Updated Monday, Nov 18 at 10:39 AM

PHOENIX -- A cold front from the Pacific Northwest will kick up winds throughout the state today. Gusts up to 50 mph are possible.

According to 3TV meteorologist April Warnecke, those winds are expected to pick up by mid- to late morning and increase this afternoon. Chances of rain are slim, which mean blowing dust is a real possibility -- and a real danger, as evidenced by last month's deadly pileup involving 19 vehicles near Picacho Peak.

A Wind Advisory for much of the state goes into effect at 11 a.m. The Valley is not included in the advisory, the stretch of Interstate 10 south of Phoenix down to Tucson and beyond is. That portion of I-10 has seen its shares of wrecks due to blowing dust. Because it's so flat, visibility can drop to zero in seconds.

The high county also is included in the Wind Advisory. I-10 west to California will also see high winds.

It's all hands on deck that the Arizona Department of Transportation Operations Center, which is keeping an eye on traffic and weather conditions throughout the state.

"Since yesterday, ADOT has been preparing for this weather event today," ADOT spokesman Garin Groff told 3TV's Jill Galus. "We've got crews positioned along I-10 from Phoenix through Casa Grande and into Tucson. We're watching or the high winds to kick up. We're watching for the dust."

In addition to the fixed message boards along I-10, ADOT has portable message boards that will be activated to warn drivers of imminent dangerous conditions.

Blowing dust can come up out of nowhere very quickly.

"If you can't see, pull off the road, turn off your engine, [turn off your lights] and take your foot off the brake and just wait it out," Groff advised. "Usually it doesn't take more than 15 or 20 minutes, and you're back on your way."

What to do if you are caught in 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 alert 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 driving tips, please visit PullAsideStayAlive.org.

Drivers planning trips are urged to monitor travel conditions by calling 511 within Arizona, 1-888-411-ROAD outside the state, or at www.az511.gov. You also should download 3TV's free Phoenix Traffi app and  follow 3TV traffic reporter @GinaMaravillaTV and @ArizonaDOT on Twitter.

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