October 30, 2013 - UNITED STATES - A stream of thick, blowing dust crossing an Arizona highway led to a chain-reaction crash that killed three
people in an area where gusting winds often stir up towering clouds of dirt that can reduce visibility to zero. Twelve other people were injured
Tuesday in the 19-vehicle pileup on Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Tucson. Crews brought in portable lights as they worked past sunset to pry
apart the 10 commercial vehicles, seven passenger cars, one tanker and one recreational vehicle that were involved, Arizona Department of Public
Safety officials said.
Terrible situation and I hope nobody else dies from it, but those that did I am saddened for their families and wish them all strength in dealing with
this matter. I have a story to share of my own and a possible solution to this problem at the end.
As I was reading about this dust storm that caused a major wreck in Arizona, it brought back a memory I have of dealing with Arizona weather. Dust
storms are hard to predict and frequent occurrences in Arizona; I think it has to do with the many mountains and low valleys where there are huge
dirt/sand accumulations that get whipped up severely from the winds that cross through the valleys.
When I first moved there in 1983, I went to work for Smitty’s; they were a combination department/grocery store with a full service bank and a
restaurant. The first experience I had with the Arizona weather happened on a day when I went to pick up my first paycheck. I parked my car and as I
was getting out a torrential storm appeared out of nowhere. It rained and the area around the store was flooded in 20 minutes; street and parking
lot. The rain came down for 1hr continuously and I decided to have lunch and wait it out.
I had lunch and expected to have to deal with the heavy water that had accumulated…to my surprise when I went outside it was dry as a bone like it
had never rained. I went back inside and asked the lady at the bank, “didn’t it just rain like crazy?”, she said “yes it did and you were not
imagining it”. It is so hot the water evaporates very quickly during that time of year (it was June) so rainfall disappears as quickly as it
I thought I was going crazy. I found out they had irrigation systems that required on call operators to keep valves open or shut depending on the
situation to keep streets from flooding near the canals. Not sure if this is the way it is now; I moved 5 months later.
My second weather related situation occurred about a month later. I was asked to drive to the Scotsdale store from the Chandler store to pick up
some shoes that we needed for a transfer (the customer was important and had ordered 12 pair). I said sure. I took my newly washed and detailed car
and set out. I went by Camel Back Mountain (near ASU stadium) and was enjoying the sites I had yet to see when out of nowhere, again, I looked to my
left and saw this huge bellowing brownish/yellowish cloud that was rolling across the nearby terrain and realized it was coming directly towards the
street I was on (Scotsdale Blvd.).
I was in traffic and not very many options on what to do so I slowed to a crawl and pulled off the road immediately. I had never seen anything like
it. It was huge and I had no way to judge the actual size or length and just waited it out. It blew about 3 inches of dust onto my car when it went
over me and visibility was nil for many minutes. Strange sight to see and experience first hand.
It was like a tornado without the funnel or a monsoon without the rain. I carried on my way and completed my task. Guess what? I had a notion that
sometime that day there would be a rain storm that would wash my car for me and voila it happened about 4 hours later when I was back at my store, but
the wash was not optimal, now I had what amounted to patches of dried mud. Wow.
Well I was safe and I didn’t witness anyone get hurt so it was harrowing but thankfully not life ending.
I never bothered having my car detailed anymore, just old fashion quick wash for me while I was still in Arizona, but I will always remember those 2
experiences. That was 30 years ago and to me it was like yesterday.
The reason I started to write this though had a different agenda involved. I had this brainstorm idea about how to combat the effects of dust storms
in areas that are specifically targeted regularly, particularly around highways or interstates where this accident occurred.
Not sure how feasible it could be but the technology exists I am certain; what if they lined those areas with sensors that can detect the dust storm
before it gets to a certain spot and they had solar powered windmill’s that were attached with water nozzles that were activated by these sensors,
thereby keeping the dust storm from reaching the area in peril.
That is my suggestion to deal with this problem. Maybe someone can run with it and make it happen or shed light on my idea to convince me it is not
feasible or dare I say fantastical and impossible. Sure would be great if someone from the Arizona area read this and had the capability to pass it
along to a government agency with an engineering department that saw merit to the idea. Maybe a student in the agriculture department has a way to do
this that is feasible. I would love to save lives if possible. There are so many things we have absolutely no control over that cause destruction it
would be nice to at least be able to combat this problem.
Thanks for reading my article.