With strong winds in the forecast, especially for Friday, the Arizona Department of Transportation is taking steps to enhance safety on a stretch of Interstate 10 in southeastern Arizona that has seen significant blowing dust. That includes coordinating with the Arizona Department of Public Safety to close the highway when conditions warrant.
Dust blowing from a recently plowed tract of land near San Simon has severely limited visibility at times in the past week, prompting ADOT and DPS to close 62 miles of I-10 between US 191 and Lordsburg, New Mexico, on several occasions.
ADOT has reduced the speed limit along five miles of I-10 (mileposts 375-380) from 75 mph to 65 mph as long as visibility isn’t significantly affected. When conditions warrant, highway crews will reduce the limit to 45 mph by placing temporary signs.
ADOT also is using overhead message signs and portable message boards to advise drivers about weather conditions, including possible strong winds and blowing dust, and the lower speed limit.
ADOT and DPS will continue to monitor National Weather Service forecasts, which at this time call for strong winds in excess of 40 mph across much of Arizona on Friday. If there is a closure, eastbound traffic will be directed to US 191 and US 70 through Safford, re-entering I-10 at Lordsburg, New Mexico, while westbound traffic will do the reverse.
Those using I-10 through southeastern Arizona should be aware of the possibility of a closure and allow extra travel time.
Drivers should remain alert to possible blowing dust at other times this week and avoid driving into a dust storm or area with severe dust conditions. If you can’t avoid severe dust, consider the following tips that are included in ADOT’s “Pull Aside, Stay Alive” public safety campaign:
- 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.
- If caught by a dust storm, immediately check traffic around your vehicle (front, back and to the side) and begin slowing down.
- 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 seatbelts buckled and wait for the dust to subside.
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