What is being done with dust storm hot spots


TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - ADOT officials say they couldn't put out a warning, because they themselves had no warning.

They were aware of dusty conditions, but nobody saw the blinding conditions coming until after it was too late.

"In the case of today, we didn't have a warning. We didn't know what was coming," said Tim Tait, ADOT Spokesman. "It just kind of surprised everybody. "

Since Monday, we've been hearing about the winds and we've known about the dry ground. Our meteorologists have been warning viewers to be aware of dust as they drive.

"We've been telling people, warning them. If you run into dust, pull over to the side of the road," said Dan Bronis, Meteorologist.

But today, heading down Interstate 10, drivers saw no warnings on the freeway. We asked ADOT what happened.

"Usually, what we look for is a formal advisory from the National Weather Service," said Tait.

No Dust Storm advisory or warning from the National Weather service was given BEFORE the crash, because wind speeds weren't strong enough to meet those standards at the time.

"The problem is dust storms are very unpredictable.  They can emerge very quickly, they can move very quickly and can surprise everyone including drivers on the road way," said Bronis. "It's a very difficult phenomenon to predict and avoid frankly."

They've even tried to work with farmers and control the amount of dust released into the air. Right now, Pinal County is in violation of Federal Air Quality Standards for dust pollution.

Most of the dust is a result of living in the desert, but farmers are doing their part.

State Environmental Quality officials say farmers have been told to plow their fields less, water the grounds as they plow, and avoid working on the fields in hot and windy conditions.

ADOT's big focus now is reminding drivers to pull over, turn the car off and avoid driving in dust storms.

"ADOT doesn't hesitate to shut a road down if visibility becomes an issue," said Tait. "During winter or snow storms we do it, and during major dust storms we do it."

State officials say they continue to meet with local farmers to try and come up with a plan to better manage their lands.

They can issue violations for farmers who do not comply with air quality standards. By January, they hope to have a plan that will bring them within federal guidelines.

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