Infographic: Surviving a dust storm: Do you know what to do?

by Doug Zanes | Last Updated: January 30, 2014

Doug Zanes shares advice on surviving a dust storm. Giant dust storms, popularly called “haboobs,” make for spectacular photos that everyone has seen shared on social media. Dust storms – whether it’s a wall of dust hitting Phoenix or topsoil descending like fog on I-10 between Tucson and Casa Grande – are something to take seriously for Arizona drivers. With the number of dust storms steadily rising – a trend expected to continue due to Arizona’s continued drought – smart drivers will want to know how to protect themselves.

Tips for driving through a dust storm infographic from a Tucson Injury Lawyer

Particularly for winter visitors new to the desert, the speed and intensity of a dust storm can be a fatal surprise so surviving a dust storm is an important discussion to have. In our experience, it is most often the driver who’s killed in dust storms, not the front-seat passenger as with other accidents.

The main danger of dust storms is limited or zero visibility, sometimes in a matter of seconds. This makes it difficult for even skilled drivers to stay in their lane, or to see other vehicles.

Here are some tips when dust storms occur:

  • Anytime there is a change in the weather, immediately cut down in-car distractions (loud music, conversation, snacking and especially texting).
  • Check traffic all around your vehicle (front, back and to the side) and begin slowing down.
  • Pull over as soon as possible – but go beyond the travel or emergency lane to a space that is completely off the paved road.
  • Turn off all lights, including your emergency flashers. Drivers behind you may think these are lights from a moving vehicle.
  • Set your emergency brake and take your foot off the brake.
  • Stay in your car with seatbelts on (in case you’re hit) and wait for the storm to pass.
  • Trucks and other high-profile vehicles are especially vulnerable. Slow down, and remember that storms can blow out traffic lights and other signals, adding to the danger.
  • If you come to an intersection without a signal, treat it as having stop signs in all directions.

Dust Storm Averages in Central Arizona, 1948-2002

  • Average number of dust storms – 2.8 per year. Total: 161
  • Average arrival time – 6:33 p.m. MST, most commonly in late July/early August
  • Average wind direction – Southeast (121 degrees)
  • Average max wind speed – 43 mph
  • Average visibility – ¼ of a mile
Doug Zanes: Founding Attorney Raised in Douglas, Arizona, and went to college at Arizona State University and graduated from law school at St. Mary’s University School of Law in Texas. Doug began practicing law in Phoenix Arizona in 1997.
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